Salzberg is a turning point for good or ill, says Peter Divey. No Deal will now rise up as an honest concept for the first time.
I always think of the tiny Oliver Twist in the boarding house, hand out, asking for more food. It takes gumption to even stand up and approach the serving desk, no one ever did it before. He is soon put back in his place. That is my vision of PM May when she is at the top table with all the other EU leaders. The Salzburg ambush was beautifully set up. All smiles, hints of flexibility, talk of give and take. Chequers is built upon a lie, so I am glad it has been put out of its misery. But has it? PM May is so stubborn that I think she will continue to plug away. You can lead a horse to water…
When even Gina Miller says that the EU mishandled things you know that the humiliation and insult went too far. Donald Tusk with his cherry-less cake was on point but the public humiliation of PM May was shocking to many. It was the inevitable “told you so” moment for Leavers. But PM May sucks it up, there will be new proposals. Yet more compromise, as easy as that. If she pushes, push back, and she will fall away. Always has, always will.
The EU has called PM May’s bluff. They do not believe the No Deal talk. They have judged PM May as weak politically as well as personally, bloody awkward she may be, but never when she is abroad. PM May is completely in the thrall of the Project Fear brigade. Hammond, Carney, big business. Even La Garde and the IMF have weighed in, never mind that they couldn’t correctly forecast the name of tomorrow’s day. No Deal is better than a Bad Deal is for domestic consumption only, to appease the noisy pro-Brexit lobby. A lump of stale bread tossed into the pond upon which everyone stoops and is temporarily sated. A misdirection. A new narrative has been established, it is allowed because it goes unchallenged, that a No Deal will be a catastrophe. It is the mantra upon which the People’s vote is being built.
In the minds of the EU Britain is already gone. Always inconsequential, in that we were routinely ignored, but now so diminished as to be the victim of a Punch and Judy show. You are an irritant, away with you, but please leave the 40 billion quid on the way out. Oh, and by the way, please change your mind and have a second vote, we prefer you to stay a member. We find your money useful. Macron is the puppet master just now and he is sending out a powerful anti-populist rallying cry. Yes, the EU is treating Britain shabbily, so what do you think we will do to Hungary, Poland, Italy, anyone? Do not even think about leaving this wonderful club, you will suffer, join us in the project. We are stronger together.
Brexit is clearly not the biggest concern for the EU and time and effort spent on it is increasingly resented. Open borders and the public reaction to the vanity induced illegal immigration is much more consequential. The European Parliament will have a very different feel after the 2019 elections unless things are tamped down. Perhaps Cameron was the first to rise and ask for more gruel, but the EU has had enough of this British temerity. May will get nothing and do as she is told. The British public reacted to this EU treatment of Cameron, it was a factor that helped drag Leave over the line. I wonder if the treatment of PM May will illicit something similar. It is a turning point for good or ill, and I expect No Deal to now rise up as an honest concept for the first time. The Irish backstop nullifies any legal or political concept of a United Kingdom, and silly Mrs May has already signed on to it.