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Brexit, May and Merkel

Sep 21,2017 - Last updated at Sep 21,2017

“It’s not over until the fat lady sings”, goes the adage, referring to the often overweight soprano who sings the last aria in Wagner’s opera, Gotterdammerung.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is convinced of her own righteousness over Brexit, although she herself voted “remain” in the Brexit referendum and then changed her opinion so she could win enough votes from Brexit members of parliament to become prime minister.

Fortunately for those who believe that the European Union is a force that welds together the former warring nations of Europe who precipitated World Wars I and II into a well-run economic and political union and thus has ensured that Europe has achieved its longest period of peace in 2000 years, the fat lady has just got going on her long aria.

Indeed, her voice is gaining timbre as it becomes clear that the “remainers” still have a chance of defeating May and her inward looking, self-destructive supporters who would have had Winston Churchill on their backs if he were still alive (he was a great believer in a unified Europe).

Fortunately for Europe, as May goes backwards, German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes forward.

Certain to win her reelection next week, and thus overtake Vladimir Putin for longevity in office, she has Europe sewn into her gut.

She has lived through it all, in the sense that the Berlin she grew up in as a girl was a bombed-out ruin, slowly being rebuilt with concrete boxes.

She is one to take her time and find the right moment to strike. She does not believe that the UK leadership is being rational.

How could it renounce its powerful position in Europe when only 37 per cent of the electorate voted for “leave”, many of them hoodwinked by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, the present foreign secretary? (Dominic Cummings, the chief organiser of the “leave” vote, has said it was all a mistake.)

She will continue to support a hard, even harsh, negotiating stance with the UK over Brexit. She will partner with French President Emmanuel Macron to strengthen the EU’s financial management to ensure that another Greek-type crisis is avoided and that Europe can further unleash its economic potential.

I guess she will not be averse to strengthening Germany’s and the EU’s links with Scotland, so that a self-confident Scotland might compel May to realise that if she leaves Europe, Scotland will leave Britain and be welcomed to stay in the EU.

In short, a reelected Ms Merkel will fight very hard for the Europe she has long craved for: a united, anti-far right, anti-communist, pro-melting pot, peaceful, compassionate and cooperative continent. 

Merkel is tougher and more experienced than May.

Jenni Russel wrote recently in the Guardian newspaper: “Nothing could be less helpful to our collective psyche as the country blunders towards Brexit. We hear much about American ‘exceptionalism’, but Britain feels it too. We are the nation of empire, whose recent ancestors once controlled a quarter of the globe, we are the mother of parliaments, we stood alone against Hitler; we have not been conquered for a thousand years. We feel remarkable.”

At the same time, the latest figures from the Western governments’ joint think tank, the OECD, show that scores for literacy and numeracy of 16-24 year olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rank in the lowest four of the EU’s 35 countries.

Alongside the Americans, the British have the worst technological skills. There are not enough British workers with the right attitudes and skills to fill the country’s jobs. The result is that the UK imports large numbers of migrants.

Nearly 25 per cent of university staff comes from other EU countries. Some of them are already packing to leave.

A third of new nurses each year comes from the EU. A recent report by the non-partisan Office for Budget Responsibility warns that public finances are in worse shape than before the 2008 financial crash. 

Rising debt, plummeting tax revenues and the lowest economic growth rate in Europe are the curse of the UK.

Britain, as we know it, is on its way to self-destruction.

Can this be stopped?

Not yet.

The government must go through the pain of intense Brexit negotiations with the EU; the economy has to fail even more than it does now.

Is there a way out?

Perhaps there could be a deal whereby the EU concedes that the UK has the right to control its own immigration flows, since immigration was the main issue in the leavers’ campaign. (Sweden quite recently did that. It was no big deal.) Then British public opinion would shift to “remain”.

 

At that point, there has to be another referendum.

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