The Other I

February 13, 2018

“You can’t afford to leave”

Filed under: Just Stuff,Political thoughts — theotheri @ 9:18 pm

                                           Image result for british flag emoji          Image result for eu flag emoji

Trump’s dumps are sending most of my family and friends in the U.S. into a frenzied survival mode.  Here in Britain Brexit and Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union (EU) is just as momentus.

As an American, I don’t have a vote on the issue, but I absolutely have an opinion.

My husband and I were originally of the view that Britain should remain in the EU, where it could continue to benefit from the trade benefits and work from within to reduce the Democratic Deficit – the term used to describe the authority imposed, without democratic authorization, by the bureaucracy in Brussels.  We also disagreed with those British who – like many Americans who voted for Trump – believed that immigrants were taking their jobs away.  As I watch the withdrawal negotiations, however, I am amazed at the complete turnaround of my views about withdrawal.  Barnier, the chief EU negotiator, as said explicitly that he is determined “to punish” (these are his exact words) Britain for its withdrawal.  His aim is to damage Britain’s economy so profoundly that no other dissatisfied country currently in the EU will consider withdrawal.  He is determined to make it clear to everyone that Britain can’t afford to leave.

Well, I don’t think he understands Britain.  Does Barnier not reflect on the fact that Britain fought two world wars against Germany and their allies in Europe?  Does he not remember that Germany bombed the UK relentlessly on the view that enough bombs would make the British surrender?  Did he not notice who won both those wars?

Don’t tell the British they can’t afford to leave.  There are more important things than money.  Yes, of  course there is real poverty.  Not being able to afford sufficient food, clean water, medical help when it’s needed, adequate shelter, and education are all markers of real poverty.  But that is not the kind of poverty Barnier can impose.  Countries including the US and Australia and diplomats from a good many others, are eager to implement trade deals with the Britain when it withdraws from the EU.  But just as important, there are important things in life that money can’t buy – self-determination and creativity, a government responsive to the people it serves, love and respect are not worth giving up for money.

Britain can’t afford to leave the EU?  Oh yeah?  I’m beginning to think – and certainly hope – that the EU is in for a big surprise.


  1. Barnier’s comment was particularly mean and tactless. “Punishing” an entire country is not part of his brief – or anybody’s on earth. Besides, it was a democratic choice – perhaps not a smart one, but not unethical or illegal at all. So why the need for retribution?
    Even if the intended audience was not Britain but the other EU countries, or it was just a negotiation tactic, Barnier should have thought about how his comments would sound to the British population. Does the EU really think their best chance of retaining members is through fear? Sounds like the HR department of a really shortsighted organization!
    Having said all that, have you really changed your mind about Brexit? Can Britain live outside EU? Is it the optimal choice for its citizens? These are two different questions.
    Countries often show great resilience when they believe they are up against nasty enemies (Britain under Churchill was a great case in point). Of course Britain can survive without the continent. North Korea survived in isolation for decades. But it would be infinitely better for countries to not have to show that resilience.
    I don’t have a dog in this race, not being a resident of Britain nor of the EU. But I believe that hardening of artificial political boundaries is a negative step, if humanism is the ultimate goal.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by psriblog — February 14, 2018 @ 1:58 am | Reply

    • I have been thinking mightily about the very issues you raise. I’m almost glad that, like you, I do not have a vote in Britain. Because the pros and the cons are both powerful. One variable you don’t mention is the state of the EU itself, which is more precarious both economically and politically than many people appreciate. What Britain would really like – and which in truth they have always wanted – is a free trade union with the EU, not a federal state, totally free immigration and a common currency which is what Brussels has always wanted. Unfortunately, the whole system of civil law which is characteristic of most of the countries on the European continent is fundamentally different than in Britain which, like the US, is based on common law. Now the whole issue of security is being discussed. Britain is militarily essential to European security. Brussels does not want to lose the relationship with Britain on this issue, and so is cleverly trying to separate it from the issues of trade, saying it is a completely independent subject of negotiation. So even something that sounds as simple and straightforward as “the hardening of artificial political boundaries” is not at all easy to define.
      It;s going to be an interesting year around the world, isn’t it?


      Comment by theotheri — February 19, 2018 @ 9:15 pm | Reply

  2. I follow Mark Blyth’s views on this and other economic-political matters. He’s an ex-Scot who teaches at Brown. You can find him on YouTube. Anyway, between what he says and what Yanis Varoufakis, finance minister of Greece in the Syriza government, briefly, there is no democracy in Brussels. The EU is run by the commission without any real input from the individual countries. And the German and French banks are largely in control. Sounds familiar, actually, to what goes on on this side of the Atlantic.

    Brexit seemed to me (and to Blyth after I discovered him) a reaction to London’s absorption of the wealth to the detriment of the north where the real cost of austerity was being exacted. Even the town that hosts the big Nissan plant voted for Brexit, and they make most of their sales in the EU.

    A similar phenomenon took place here in the US in November 2016. The workers in Wisconsin and Michigan didn’t so much vote against their own interests out of racism, etc. (most of them had voted for Obama, some of them twice). They felt betrayed by both parties. They felt they had nothing to lose and possibly something to gain from Trump who did, after all, say a lot of the right things about trade deals, social security, etc.

    Of course, I think I might go you one better and say Jeremy Corbyn is the best thing for Britain. He was lukewarm about Brexit, but at least he represents the people who didn’t get bailed out after 2009 and are genuinely hurting. And he would not, I will bet my last dollar, sell them out as Trump has done so quickly the people who were critical to his own election.


    Comment by Thomas J. Hubschman — February 15, 2018 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

    • Interesting, Tom, that you have a grasp of the scope of the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU. Even living over here, it has taken me until now to appreciate just how authoritarian they are in Brussels and how determined they are to maintain that authoritarian, unelected, power.
      Yes, I think we would disagree about Jeremy Corbyn. I am totally in favour of a concern for the truly poor and dispossessed. But I have two concerns about Corbyn. He does not tolerate disagreement, and instead of trying to build a consensus in the Labour party is doing everything he can to get the middle ground deselected so that they cannot run in the next election. My other concern is what I think is Corbyn’s economic naivete. The only way he costs his proposals is to increase taxes among “the very rich.” First of all, there is not as much money in the pot as he seems to think. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he risks repeating the problems created by Labour in the 1970’s with what they called the “brain drain.” It is too easy to pick up and leave the UK and to contribute lower taxes – often dramatically lower taxes, as you no doubt know – elsewhere.

      Of course what I hope is that this discussion about Corbyn is academic. But I suspect it’s not. May’s government could easily fall, and then the country will have another mega-decision. Again, neither of us will have a vote, but I’m sure we will both have both an opinion and great concern.


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by theotheri — February 19, 2018 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Terry,

    Long time no write. I’m afraid though I rather disagree with you on Brexit. Michel Barnier may have used unfortunate language but his overall logic seems sound to me. It would be weird for the EU to allow the UK to leave the EU on terms which are anywhere near as good as we currently have. That would create a precedent which could cause the EU to auto-destruct. And the analogy with Britain’s blitz spirit seems a bit ironic considering the original post-WW2 rationale behind what became the EU was as a way to prevent future armed conflict in Europe.

    But I speak as someone who could not vote in the 2016 referendum because of another democratic deficit. We had been out of the country for more than 15 years, and were denied a vote on these spurious grounds. We weren’t living in the EU, but plenty of UK citizens were who were denied a vote for the same reason, even though they fell into a category perhaps most affected by the outcome. We returned a few months after the referendum to a UK in many ways poorer and less generous than the one we left.


    Comment by Chris Lawrence — May 3, 2018 @ 11:21 am | Reply

    • Chris, it is such a delight to hear from you. And as usual, your comments stimulate my thoughts.

      To tell you the truth, I am as worried about the Brexiteers as I am about Barnier as I am about Corbyn as I am about some of the Remainers as I am about Trump. As long as I’m making a worry list, I might as well add my worries about environmental change, the potential spread of nuclear and biological weapons, and the worry that our technological and digital developments seem to have as much potential for destructiveness as for immense good.

      It’s not that I think things are worse than they have ever been. It’s just that with global media and a decent education I think we can see more than in previous times.

      Of course, that does give us a shot to do something about it. Unfortunately, although I grew up with a plethora of Right Answers and solutions that I thought rivalled those of Marx, I don’t have any of those any more. The more one sees, the more questions one has.

      So right now I am concentrating on trying to be kind and non-judgemental on a personal level. Do you remember your putting it: “Love is hard enough, but it is also enough”? I still have it posted on my bulletin board.

      Thank you for your comment. I do look forward to hearing from you.


      Comment by theotheri — May 3, 2018 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

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