Can Britain get a quickie divorce then help rebuild a stronger Europe?

Simon Jenkins writes: War was once politics by other means. Now the converse may be the case, and thank goodness. But there is such a thing as dangerous politics. The centre is not holding. Leaders are digging into their national subconscious to unearth, if not guns, then a means to populist power.

The times when Britain has been summoned to “come to the aid of Europe” have been few. But they have been preceded by British blindness towards a sudden shift in politics on the continent. When the Catholic church, Louis XIV or Napoleon threatened the peace of Europe, Britain hesitated. It might send a Marlborough or a Wellington to fly the flag for British soldiering, but its heart was rarely in it.

The same casualness infuses the present Brussels negotiations. It may be dismaying to see the EU’s Barnier treat David Davis as might a counter-reformation cardinal some pesky Lutheran princeling. Barnier clearly cares nothing for Europe, only for the Holy Brussels Church and its budget. But in response Britain seems devoid of interest. It shows no vision of an endgame, as if it did not mind about Brexit either way. This is precisely how Europe slithered to war in centuries past.

Europe is not going to war. But its internal-government relations are ever more brittle. The prospect is of another credit crunch, the crippling of the Greek economy, mass unemployment in Italy and Spain, and a critical need for a deal with Russia.

Europe needs a leader. If Merkel is not to be one, then who? Surely not the egotistical Emmanuel Macron? It would have been a golden opportunity for Britain to seize the helm, if only it had not abandoned ship.

Britain has clearly to proceed with Brexit. But it must get the item off the negotiating table as soon as possible. It should seek a quickie divorce: pay the money and marry Norway. It could then hurl itself into a revived “concert of Europe”, and convince the EU’s council of ministers to convene a conference on reform. There could then be a fresh start, a new treaty for a future Europe of sovereign states. That is the treaty Britain can help to write and join, starting now. [Continue reading…]

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Comments

  1. Internationalist says:

    “Britain has clearly to proceed with Brexit… It could then… convince the EU’s council of ministers to convene a conference on… a new treaty for a future Europe of sovereign states…”

    One may regard Jenkins’s notion of a “Europe of sovereign states” as the only desirable vision for the continent’s “future” (and, more generally, as the endpoint of mankind’s political development) as reactionary, wrongheaded and self-serving. I certainly do.

    Regardless of any ideological differences, however, our author (nominally, a remainer) indulges in the very specifically British fantasy that made Brexit so unsurprising to many observers from the European mainland: the idea that Britain may dictate the continent’s future while keeping it at arm’s length.

    The convening of conferences and the like are just narrative details to imbue this nationalistic fantasy with a veneer of plausibility.

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