Why Herr Steinmeier is so wrong about Brexit

Last Tuesday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the newly-elected President of Germany, delivered a very outspoken message to the European Parliament, highly critical of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

“It is wrong to say, in my conviction, that in this world a single European country standing alone and without the EU can make its voice heard or assert its economic interests”, he said. “Quite to the contrary.” He called last year’s Leave campaign “naive and irresponsible” and strongly attacked the concept of taking back control. “Take back control is a strong slogan that we hear everywhere. Nationalists are unable to deliver it and if it can be delivered at all, it is something we can only do together. It is irresponsible to lead people to believe that, in a world that is becoming more complex, the answers are becoming more simple.” He dismissed our desire to return to being a self-governing nation state and called those of us who voted to leave the EU “bitter”.

Earlier in the day, Manfred Weber, a fellow-German who leads the European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament said that “Some of the politicians in London have not understood what leaving the European Union means. It means being alone.”

It is very apparent than many on the Continent still feel very uncomfortable about Brexit. This is not going to make the already complex task which our negotiators are about to begin any easier, but this does not alter the fact that we were right in voting to leave the EU and regain our sovereignty.

Herr Weber’s claim that we will be alone is a very myopic, Eurocentric view of the world. On leaving the EU, the UK will still be a member of the G20, G8, NATO, the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation and a host of other international bodies. We will regain the ability to arrange our own trade deals with other countries. Places at our universities will still be in demand worldwide. London will still be a magnet for tourists – and a global financial centre to boot. Hardly a picture of splendid isolation.

It must be conceded that a change of mindset will be needed in both Westminster and Whitehall. Our politicians and civil servants will need to adjust to the hard truth that the buck will soon stop with them and no longer with anyone in Brussels. This is hardly a bad thing, however and is after all, the norm in the 160+ countries that are not members of the EU.

More importantly, however, Steinmeier’s defence of pooled sovereignty is an anachronism. It goes back to the immediate post-war period when politicians and bureaucrats between them were seen as the answer to all the issues facing the world at that time. Seventy years on, politicians and bureaucrats have instead become part of the problem.  Only a handful of anarchists and libertarians believe that mankind could one day manage without any government, but there is a very convincing case to be made that we need a lot less government and such government as we do require needs to be a lot more accountable to us, the voters. The EU’s institutions, notably the unelected Commission, are far more accountable to lobbyists and big multinationals than to the voters of the member states.

To suggest therefore that an organisation with as serious a democratic deficit as the EU is necessary to solve the world’s problems is quite frankly laughable. The EU’s track record in addressing issues in its own back yard, such as the migrant crisis, is hardly impressive and it must bear much of the responsibility for the catastrophe which has engulfed Greece in recent years.

Meanwhile, non-EU Switzerland and Norway seem unpeturbed by their seeming economic impotence  Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank reckon them among the top 10 wealthiest nations in the world.  Leaving the EU is not going to result in the UK shooting up the rankings as soon as the Brexit deal is signed, sealed and delivered, but it will at least set us up for a longer-term recovery from the long, wasted years of subservience to Brussels.

In short, Herr Steinmeier’s criticism of Brexit voters as “bitter” is complete and utter baloney. There may well be a few bumps on the rocky road to Brexit, but the underlying reasons for wanting to leave this club of failures are sound and sensible. After all, is it really “naive” or “irresponsible” merely to wish to re-join the rest of the world whose nations seem to manage remarkably well without being members of the EU?


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  1. Mr J.GravinaReply

    Being a member of the occupied European Bloc was a bit like being stricken with a deadly bacteria.. Brexit was the Anti-Biotic, its positive effect will not be instant but it will take a little while to start to feel the positive effects.

  2. george thomasReply

    in our Brexit negotiation with the EU we need to realise that the individuals with whom we will be negotiating come from a community in Brussels that have built their careers and have achieved their personal status by working for the achievement of the holy grail of Ever Closer Union of the peoples of Europe. The political establishment of the various EU nations enjoy working with the EU institutions because, apart from the pleasant perks that come with that function, they can operate in those circles without much scrutiny of what they do from their domestic press. These people will not be easy to deal with because Brexit threatens not only all they have worked for, but in the case of the Brussels establishment, their jobs and their personal status.

    Brexit has made real the fact that the greatest danger to the holy grail of Ever Closer Union comes from those European peoples who most understand and value democracy. That is to say that they value government that is open and accountable to the people and government that understand THEM. The EU project, seen in the most kindly light, is a beautiful aspiration that is in practice deeply dangerous. The various and very different peoples of the many EU countries will not tolerate indefinitely being forced into a union that is governed by a distant body with glaring democratic flaws (no effective checks and balances) over which they have no control or much influence. The British have sent out the first warning that this project will fail and the EU establishment will be angry and afraid of that and we can expect little sympathy from them. BUT the people who will be most understanding and appreciative will be the other democratically minded peoples of Europe. We need to make clear that we bear no hostility to other peoples but only to the Ever Closer Union that threatens us all. In fact we welcome free trade and much interaction but NOT a United Europe.

  3. veraReply

    I don’t remember our UK voice being much heard in the EU, part of the reason we are leaving. Herr Steinmeier is German, and speaks from that point of view. Of course our leaving the EU will have a huge effect on the EU, and Germany, who to all intents and purposes runs the EU are not at all happy at their loss of territory, power and funds. Quelle surprise!

  4. Gordon WebsterReply

    I suggest that, like the Commission, Herr Steinmeier is panicking on behalf of VW, BMW, Mercedes, Bosch, Siemens, E-On, NPower, and they numerous other German Companies which have benefited from Brussels Central Planning, and the systematic destruction of British Jobs and Industry. The Cash Cow has left the field, and the chickens are now coming home to roost – all very Animal Farm.

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