By Michael Dwyer
To the surprise of many the invective post referendum has if anything intensified. Neither side has covered themselves in glory.
The rank and undisguised contempt of Remainers have displayed for their fellow citizens shown the ugly face of liberal Britain in a way that has shocked your correspondent, and many who had in fact voted to stay.
However an ugliness that has gone largely uncommented, is that shown by Mr Junkers and others in their public statements, about the dissolution of Britain’s contract with the rest of the EU is to be managed.
They have not gone for the nuanced warning or the veiled threat. Nor have they been careful to hide the underlying motivation of their animus. Britain is to be punished. It must suffer in consequence of the decision to leave. This pain will be a salutary warning to any other countries within in the EU which might be considering departure themselves. “Look” they are being told “ at what we can and will do to this powerful trading nation and ponder what we could do to you, smaller poorer and less connected people.”
This is not the language of respect or of democracy. It is not, surely the language which should accompany the decision of one sovereign democracy to leave peacefully an association of other democracies. This is not the language of rational diplomacy, but of the Mafia, and of the ideologue.
The optimists on the pro brexit side both within the UK and outside it pooh pooh the threats as mere bullying and an attempt to intimidate at the beginning of a negotiation. “The EU,” they say, “cannot afford a hard Brexit. Economically it would not be in its interests. After all the Union runs a considerable trade surplus with the UK and many of the member countries are also military allies and collaborators in NATO.”
It may be though that the optimists and rational actor folk are missing the point. What is the EU for ? Well once upon a time I think you would have had almost universal agreement had you answered that with ‘Peace and Prosperity’. Should that still be the case then the economics and politics would dictate a reasoned and reasonable negotiation.
However I do not believe that I am alone in believing that for some, perhaps many deep in the European ‘Project’ the teleology has changed.
For Junkers et al the purpose of Europe is increasingly Europe. The EU has become its own telos; it has become an end in itself. It may (they, no doubt, still believe) bring many happy consequences with it, such as peace and prosperity, but now in post Christian Europe it is acquiring an almost religious, even numinous, quality.
Here then is a problem that the sane, the sensible, and the moderates do not yet see. For the true believers the rational considerations of mere economics will not deter the ever onwards rush to the higher ideal that is Europe.
The metaphor most commonly used to describe the forward momentum is that of a train. Get on the Euro train to the future. Well the thing about trains is this. When your are on one getting off is very tricky indeed if it doesn’t want to stop. When it stops it is only for a moment, and then off it goes again. And most problematically, a train only really goes in one direction, where the tracks laid down by the owners lead it. In train terminology changing direction without changing the tracks is called a crash.
For small folk like us Irish we have to hope that we can make use of the stop afforded us by the UK pulling the emergency brake. It might the be time to get on the platform and check timetable, just to make sure we are quite happy with the advertised destination. If we are not, we had better get off now than either jump off at high speed or wait for the crash. Because with Junkers stoking the fire the crash is going to come.