Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. I hope we have all had a good holiday, but may I now return to the burning issue of the day and I would like to look at BREXIT from a European angle.
‘The Project’ is the European Union’s plan to reach an ‘ever closer union’ and a ‘United States of Europe’. But things have gone badly wrong. BREXIT has thrown a spanner in the works as far as Brussels is concerned. So maybe it is worth looking at the matter from the European Union end. To do that I pay tribute to the musings of my friend Colonel John Hughes-Wilson who served in NATO with me, is now a well-known commentator and currently lives (lucky devil) in Cyprus.
Money is at the root of the problem. The British contribution to the Annual European Union Budget of about £120 billion is almost £20 billion (1/6th) and that is important for an organisation that consistently spends more than it has and cannot seem to get all its accounts in order – some suggest for 21 years. That future loss plus the £39 billion or so that we might pay to European Union as part the divorce settlement is crucial to further Project planning. Unsurprisingly Brussels will do anything it can to keep the United Kingdom in but, assuming that does not happen, get its hands on that £39 billion which is, after all, about one third of the European Union’s Annual Budget.
I hear that there are increasing complaints already from states such as Bulgaria and Romania which depend so much on receiving European Union funding (hand-outs). Net contributors to the European Union Budget, such as Germany and The Netherlands, are alarmed too; they will be expected to pay much more after BREXIT.
German car manufacturers (the UK market for their vehicles is larger than the United States and China combined), French and Spanish fishermen (who demand to trawl in our waters by right) and French farmers (who get considerably more pro rata from the Common Agricultural Policy than us) are equally jarred off by what BREXIT might mean for them.
Bureaucrats in Brussels worry intensely about the ‘poor’ example set by the United Kingdom because other European Union members also have grave doubts about what the organisation does for them too. The United Kingdom’s BREXIT is a siren call for others and Brussels doesn’t like it at all.
There are already signals of discontent amongst many of the remaining 27 members of the European Union. European Union federalism requires the suppression of National Self-Determination and many states are not at all happy about that; witness the increasing number of member nations who are seeing the growth of anti-European Union votes.
President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel, the strongest proponents of the European Union Project, now have popularity ratings at an all-time low and Angela Merkel is on her way out.
The recent riots by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) is clearly indicative of deep malaise in the French economy. President Macron’s capitulation to their demands with a curious cocktail of concessions and heavy policing is symptomatic of dissatisfaction by ordinary people with the way Macron's Government and Brussels directs matters in France. Last summer, when in France, I asked a French farmer why he was allowing his vast fields of corn to rot on their stems and he told me he received far more money from Brussels is he did that rather than harvest his crop. How mad is that?
Even rich and prosperous Germany has been hit by rebellion and nationalist far-Right politicians from the anti-European Union Alliance for Germany Party, pose a huge threat to the comfy CDU-SPD order of doing things in Government.
In Europe’s self-dubbed capital and Headquarters of the European Union, Brussels, there is political mayhem too. For 589 days it couldn’t even form a Government and most recently Charles Michel resigned as Prime Minister after a vote of No Confidence. The key concerns in Belgium remain Islamic immigration and unemployment (at 6.5 per cent). Belgium needs the European Union hugely. It provides many employment opportunities as well as good income.
In Rome there is now a serious anti- European Union majority in Parliament which simply refuses to obey Brussels’ diktats. The European Union and the Euro are blamed for Italy’s economy being almost what it was 20 years and unemployment amongst the young is at 32 per cent. The Italian National Debt has now reached 130 per cent of its annual Gross Domestic Product at almost €2.5 trillion. Surely it is only a matter of time before Italy is bankrupt.
The Euro is likewise blamed for making large parts of Spain and Portugal’s economies grossly uncompetitive. One in three young people in Spain have never had a job. The Spanish Government’s dispute with its wealthiest province, Catalan, rumbles on and people living in places like Barcelona deeply resent the European Union’s championing of the Spanish Government against them. Those Catalan politicians that opposed the Spanish Government are in exile or jail and the European Union is associated with all that. Catalonia is a clear sign that National Self-Determination is resurgent in Europe and Brussels had better come to terms with it. But I suspect it cannot.
Goodness knows why Greece lingers on within the Euro which it should (rightly) never have been allowed to join. Apparently, people there can avoid taxation relatively easily, they retire at 50 and then get better pensions than us – paid for by us through the European Union. Businesses have been forced into bankruptcy with subsequent loss of jobs and futures. Youth unemployment remains at 36 per cent and all this is too is blamed on Brussels.
But surely the greatest challenge to the European Union’s cosy ruling cartel of Western European members comes from some of its newest members whose centre of power is in Eastern Europe. There far-Right parties in the so-called Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) are truly in the ascendency. They are particularly incensed by orders from Brussels about immigration. Of the four Hungary, under its Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, presents the greatest test.
The crisis facing the European Union is far greater than simply BREXIT. Brussels is being increasingly defied by member states yet its answer of the demand for ever closer union is no panacea.
Europe consists of many countries with lots of differing customs, traditions and languages. It is not and never will be like the United States. European Union members increasingly want to keep their own identities, traditions and home-grown governments not a largely unelected one with scant relationship or understanding of them in Brussels. More and more rule from Brussels is being rejected by all parts of the European Union family.
If BREXIT presents the United Kingdom with problems I suggest it pales beside the challenges that Brussels has with advancing its Project for ever greater integration at the expense of National Self-Determination. History has taught me one clear lesson; the will of the people always triumphs in the end.