Lane: While Brexit Deal Relies on EU Goodwill, Brussels Appears Content to Belittle Britain Instead

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (R) welcomes British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) prior to their meeting, on September 16, 2019 in Luxembourg - Six weeks before he is due to lead Britain out of the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Jean-Claude Juncker, insisting that a Brexit deal …
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The European Union already has the best possible Brexit deal to serve their interests — the one they handed to Theresa May to get past Britain’s Parliament in 2018 — so it is perhaps little wonder the response to Boris Johnson attempting to rebalance things in Britain’s favour have been met with incredulity, dismissiveness, and now petulance.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday morning, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker taunted Boris Johnson, reports The Times newspaper, chiding the British leader for having ended the longest UK Parliamentary session in modern history with a process known as prorogation. Whether the move was legal or not is presently being challenged by anti-Brexit campaigners in Britain’s Supreme Court.

Warning that a no-deal Brexit was becoming increasingly likely, top Eurocrat Juncker said of the European Parliament he addressed: “This house is open and in action, and not prorogued.”

Those in glass houses, Mr Johnson may reply. The jibe is a brave one, being made in a Parliament which exists to give a figleaf of democratic accountability to the vast, byzantine, and deeply undemocratic European Union which presumes to govern a continent of half a billion people.

Indeed, just this week a vote in the parliamentary chamber laid bare the awesome power the members can wield when they cast their ballots to confirm former International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde as the new chief of the Germany-based European Central Bank. The vote itself was purely a formality, a rubber-stamping exercise — the Parliament can’t actually vote against the choice of the European Council — and the last time they did, the ballot was simply ignored and the candidate was appointed anyway.

Juncker’s petulant outburst follows by just days the attempt at ritual humiliation by Luxembourgian Prime Minister Xavier Bettel — the leader of a country the size of a small British city — who attempted to lay a trap for Boris Johnson by organising a joint press conference next to a group of extremely vocal anti-Brexit protesters. Sensing the ambush, Mr Johnson pulled out of the engagement leaving Bettel attempting a stand-up comedy routine making fun of an empty podium.

Using the European Union’s smallest powers to belittle Britain appears to now be settled European Union policy. While France and Germany keep their distance in the game, the leaders of the Republic of Ireland (population 4.7 million, GDP 333 billion) and Luxembourg (population 0.6 million, GDP 77 billion) seem ready to be wheeled out, happy to be used as instruments of EU foreign policy against the United Kingdom (population 67 million, GDP 2,800 billion).

Irish leader Leo Varadkar has enjoyed a moment in the sun as his country has experienced a period of relevance well out of proportion to its usual also-ran position in European politics, as the nation remains the easiest and handiest tool for the Union with which to frustrate the Brexit process. Yet even the cocksure Varadkar revealed his hand prematurely early in 2019, when the sheer extent of the risk Ireland faces from Britain leaving the European Union hit the headlines.

Despite the enormous advantage Ireland faces for a negotiated Brexit deal — including avoiding a massive “mega-money” bailout from Europe — the attitude from Dublin remains one of intransigence, as it does from Brussels.

That the latest attempted belittlement is deliberate and not serving anyone’s interests has not gone unnoticed in the United States — U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson said of the charade on Tuesday evening that the disrespect showed why the British wanted to be out of the European Union in the first place. Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence used a speech during a visit to the Republic to call on Ireland to adopt “good faith” for Brexit negotiations, a clear nod to what had been lacking in them from Ireland so far.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage himself called Bettel a “pipsqueak prime minister” and pointed out that if the Brexit deal the British government — led by Boris Johnson — is desperate to pass relies on goodwill from Brussels, there is no hope for it at all.


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