Eurosceptics across Europe watch Brexit own goal

What makes Brexit interesting to Italians and other Europeans is that the UK team seemed to be without a captain and determinedly kicking towards its own end. Meanwhile, unbeknown to the Brits, the other side is terrified of them; terrified of the domino effect from fans in Europe who might emulate their style, and terrified of losing the 40 billion in ticketing revenue. Come on, let's change tactics, get to the final, and bring it all home

Brexit own goal
Tim Hedges
On 11 July 2018 11:00

One of the main differences between the protestant north and the catholic south is that down here things slow down when the weather gets warmer, whereas in London ministers are resigning in 30 degree heat (86 if you're old school).

The big news here is that an Irish naval vessel turned up in Italy with some migrants (why does the BBC call them refugees?).

Naval vessels land at ports under different arrangements to civilian ones, and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was unable to ban a piece of blatant mischief making and virtue signalling from Ireland. Like Greece (maintaining a huge military on other people’s money, interfering in Cyprus and Macedonia), the Republic has been allowed to get above itself, as we shall see.

With the Italians too sensible to indulge in political games when they and their constituents could be at the beach, perhaps I may be permitted a few Mediterranean observations on Brexit.

The reaction here was a grudging admiration for the Brits, while saying this would not, of course, suit Italy. A bit like supporting another team after you have not qualified for the World Cup. Now, or until the latest Chequers own goal, the UK seemed to be heading for the final and everyone was agog to see how it turned out.

What makes it more interesting is that the UK team seemed to be without a captain or manager and often determinedly kicking towards its own end.

The first thing to observe is that Europe is terrified of a ‘no deal’, not because of anything concerning Airbus or BMW, but because the British would not pay their €40 billion or so. The British ‘transition period’ was carefully calculated, a year and nine months to December 2020, to coincide with the EU budget.

It takes these people ages to agree on anything, and the budget - whether Cyprus gets its farm subsidies or Romania its new trains or airports - is particularly sensitive. Political careers hang on someone having wheedled a grant here or a co-payment there; that’s how subsidy junkies operate.

So the biggest threat we had in the negotiations was to offer no deal; studiously, the UK Government went out of its way not to plan for such an outcome. See what I mean about running the ball towards your own goal?

As for tales of the likes of Airbus moving out because their supply chain crosses potential tariff barriers: the Brits have been fairly careful not to allow discussion of the opposite. Germany sells more cars to Britain than it does to America and China combined. They don’t want Britain imposing a tariff. Fancy a shiny new BMW plant as a high wage employer in your town?

In the short term, Britain could benefit from no deal. In the long term everyone suffers from inhibitions to trade. But in the long term we can agree trade deals, no?

And Ireland. Surely this was the worst piece of international negotiating ever, to be made a complete patsy by Europe. Years ago, without any help from Europe, we and the Republic of Ireland had a frictionless border. And no, there is nothing about it in the Good Friday Agreement because there was no need for anything.

The group which needs a hard border is the EU, to mark where their subsidy and tariff empire begins and ends. They like borders. All Britain had to do was say it was against any kind of hard border and that if the EU wanted one it would keep it well within Irish territory, and explain to the people of North and South why it was being imposed on them.

But no, we allowed the massively self-important Leo Varadkar to impose the rules from a position of utter weakness. Has he paid our €5 billion back by the way? Britain meanwhile was stringing together a passing manoeuvre in the direction of our own goalkeeper.

Theresa May has even appointed a civil servant behind the back of her own Brexit minister to make sure he had no success. This, by the way, is the kind of sneaky behaviour misogynist directors suspect women get up to (although in my experience they never do). Mrs May hasn’t done the sisterhood any good at all.

And now this rollover in front of the European forwards. Come on UK! Play to win!

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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