Stagnation

Italy has a new government, but only after a great deal of wrangling. The principal reason for the impasse is that, like the Brexit vote in 2016,  frustration with the European Union was an important motivation for the Italians’ decision to vote in large numbers for two eurosceptic parties.

The situations in the two countries at the moment are nonetheless very different. We are on the way out. True, many Brexit supporters are finding themselves increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations but there are good grounds for believing that we will leave – eventually., somehow.

Italy, by contrast, is still in the EU and there is no immediate likelihood of “Italexit”. Many inhabitants of this founder member of the European Union are distinctly unenthusiastic at the way EU membership has affected their country, but this doesn’t mean they want to leave altogether..

What both countries have in common is that they have come up against the dead hand of inertia. Essentially, big, bloated states and bureaucracies do not make decisions quickly. Stagnation is the inevitable result. Those of us who can remember the latter years of the Soviet Union will recall that by the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, it had lapsed into stagnation – unable to respond to events. The EU is in a similar position. No senior figure since Jacques Delors seems to have any vision for the EU’s future direction. The enlargement process, after the celebrations of 2004, seems to have ground to a halt.

However, just like the Soviet Union, the EU does not like anyone trying to take it in a direction in which it does not want to go. This piece by Norman Lamont  claims that the EU is very uncomfortable with democracy when it produces a result it doesn’t like. Unfortunately for the Italians, the stagnation into which the EU has descended is going to make it difficult to sort out their country’s moribund economy. A well-informed website claimed that it was actually Berlin which forced the Italian President to reject the nomination of a Eurosceptic finance minister by the putative new government, forcing a climbdown and nearly precipitating new elections, the result of which would most likely have been a parliament containing even more Euro-critical MPs.

For us in the UK, this tendency towards stagnation has made it very hard for us to achieve a successful Brexit.  Last week, Michel Barnier delivered a speech expressing his frustration at the slow progress of Brexit talks. In one sense, he has some justification – our side has been going round in circles ever since Article 50 was invoked. To leave the EU seamlessly requires a lot of research and an appreciation of the nature of the beast. It could be argued that our side has failed almost totally on both counts.

And the struggles the EU is going through, including the Italian crisis, are more than sufficient vindication of our decision.  In a fast-moving world, the EU’s inbuilt bias to inertia makes it ill-equipped to respond to change. We could do much better as a sovereign state – the big problem is making our escape. A rocket needs a huge amount of power to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth and fly off into space. Our negotiators will need to try a lot harder if we are to escape from the gravitational power of the EU.

 

Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos on US/Russia tensions

Anyone attending our annual rally last April will have heard the former Greek Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos describe in graphic detail the problems his country still faces.

Those who appreciated his speech may be interested in his comments about the current tensions  between Russia and the USA. Click on this link and you will be able to follow his take on the current tit-for-tat, which provides a welcome contrast from the reporting in the mainstream media. The Ambassador’s comments begin about four minutes into the video clip.  He is very critical of what he sees as an unnecessary move by the new US administration and makes the very valid point that modern Russia is poles apart from the old Soviet Union, but some people don’t seem to have woken up to this reality.

 

Photo by FolsomNatural

Der Spiegel is ahead of the game

Sometimes you get a better idea of the direction of Cameron’s renegotiations by reading the foreign press than you do from our national daily newspapers. Certainly this article in Der Speigel online seems to have the measure of the play-acting going on between David Cameron and the various powers-that-be in the European Union:-

The victor in this game has already been determined. On Feb. 19th in Brussels, David Cameron will prevail with all of his most important demands. The British prime minister, to be sure, will be standing alone at the summit, faced with opposition from his 27 EU counterparts. But in the end, following tough negotiations, he will get his way.

Such is the result envisioned by EU leaders and in fact European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already written the script for their own defeat. “We want Cameron to return to London victorious,” say EU officials in Brussels, in an uncommon display of unity. In Berlin, a Chancellery official says: “We will be extremely helpful.” Anything that isn’t a complete betrayal of European values is negotiable, the Berlin official says.

Their goal is that of providing Cameron with the political tailwind he needs to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union. This summer, Cameron is planning to hold a referendum on Britain’s future in the EU. Only if he returns from Brussels in February with a better deal for Britain does he stand a chance of reversing the widespread EU-skepticism that characterizes the country.

So there you have it – a stage-managed confrontation which will see Cameron seemingly winning against  the odds – talking tough and somehow, browbeating all the other 27 countries to get his way, except in reality they are more than happy to be browbeaten because of the fear of Brexit.

For Tusk, Juncker and Merkel, a Brexit would be a nightmare scenario, and one that they are seeking to avoid at all costs. It would shake the EU to its core, continues the article, perhaps with some truth. However, advocates of “remain” on both sides of the Channel have failed to face up to the fact that two contradictory forces are in play that can never ultimately be  reconciled.

The EU leadership is unbending in its commitment to “Ever Closer Union.”  Angela Merkel herself has said “We need a political union, which means we must gradually cede powers to Europe and give Europe control.” The problem is that the majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want to do this. It’s a bit like Jeremy Corbyn having someone in his shadow cabinet who not only rejects unilateralism but actually rejects socialism altogether! Such  a person is clearly in the wrong place.

So, for all the fears of the shock of Brexit, it really ought to be a benefit for the peoples of Europe. If they are at one with their elected (and unelected) leaders in still wanting ever-closer union, then getting rid of the foot-dragging Brits will enable them to achieve their objective a lot quicker.

If, on the other hand, the peoples of Europe are falling out of love with the European project, then we can lead the way towards a  peaceful, orderly dismemberment of the EU rather than the chaotic scenes we saw 25  years ago when the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia fell apart. After all, the EU has no divine right to eternal life. Brexit is actually a win-win situation for everybody, but first, we need to ensure that our own countrymen are as well-informed of the true nature of David Cameron’s charades as Der Speigel so manifestly is, so that we’re not taken in.