So what sort of deal will the negotiations on Northern Ireland bring? While it is virtually impossible to predict precisely the outcome, attitudes in Brussels might give an indication, writes Chris White.
Officially, of course, all is constructive, but the talk in cafes and bars surrounding the European Commission is destructively mocking. That the English public are “stupid and don’t deserve our respect” is a commonplace attitude.
Many remarks about Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government are unrepeatable. Does this amount to an elitist disregard of democratic principles? Thereby lies the rub. In discussions elsewhere in Brussels this week I heard endless complaints from citizens of EU member states that “the European Commission is not democratic”. That “they impose their laws and standards and force us to accept them”.
The news service Politico Europe opened its coverage of the Northern Ireland Protocol talks on Wednesday stating that the UK “is facing its D-Day”. The comment is widely used in EU institutions and while the term has become a standard form of emphasis in the English language its use in this context is highly insulting.
It is a loaded threat to a nation that remembers D-Day as the beginning of the liberation of Europe.
The new editor-in-chief Jamil Anderlini, who took over on the day the comment appeared, said he wants Politico to “stand up for the tolerance…openness of liberal democracy”. So what about a few more such loaded remarks aimed at Poland, Hungary and other difficult countries?
Perhaps he should talk to the many Brits who suffered losses in the war that featured the D-Day landings only 77 years ago. It is clear that the attitude of the EU institutions and press generally is generating among England’s public the sort of attitude towards Europe that was once held towards Germany.
In his speech in Lisbon, Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister, resorted to philosophy quoting Edmund Burke on preventing a difference of opinion from festering into rancorous and incurable hostility. A key point he made is that Brexit is about democracy.
The murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess has been widely described as an attack on democracy. That democracy generally is under threat is now widely accepted.
There is though, another agenda: the Irish Republic’s ambition to achieve Irish unification within the EU.
That the EU Commission is enthusiastically supporting Dublin’s position is undoubted. This is not new. I well remember a senior official of the Commission’s UK delegation, visiting Brussels from his base in Scotland in the early 1990’s, sounding off in a cafe about how Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be independent of “the stupid English”. His insults almost started a fight.
So why, it is not unreasonable to ask, is the EU favouring, as they undoubtedly are, republicanism in Northern Ireland? What about the Catalan region of Spain? There has been hardly a squawk from the EU about the jailing of politicians who campaigned and won a democratic vote for Catalan independence.
What about that part of Flanders that is now part of France which Flemish nationalists say should be returned? What about the Basques, the Bretons and the many regions of Europe that might democratically vote for independence? The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement has a built in right for democratic votes on independence,
So where are we heading? Political and economic conflict fuelled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels and fanned by politicians with hidden agendas of their own? Or a peaceful resolution of the problems between the EU and Britain leading to a strong economic alliance?
The EU is playing with fire but, leaving aside the threats of terrorism, there is one important point that seems to have escaped commentators: the Irish have automatic British citizenship when they land on UK territory, something that the European Commission has ruled discriminatory unless offered to all EU citizens.
The big question is what happens to that if Ireland becomes united in the EU, particularly as a result of political hostility from Brussels?
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