Missing the tide

We had Boris quoting Julius Caesar. He might have tried another quote, this time Cassius to Brutus:

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat.’

Only we’re not. The European tide is turning in our direction, and what do we do – we hide in the sand dunes.

The politics of the Tory party mean that departing Europe (and, yes, I mean Europe, not just the EU) at precisely the wrong time. We’ve not been the only country drawing back from a federalist agenda. In Germany they’re having the same debate but not as yet with the same foolish consequences. Take Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, as an example. ‘Originally a European federalist in favour of an ever-close union (he) has concluded that the referendum signifies that Europe will not stomach yet more centralisation.’ (The Economist.) In Schauble’s own words, ‘Now is not the time for visions.’

On the other side of the argument we have members of the German SPD, Angela Merkel’s coalition partners, who want to push harder for closer integration: the president of the European parliament, Martin Schulz, argues for ‘refounding Europe.’

The debate illustrates how much Germany is pivotal to the debates about Europe’s future. It would have been Merkel and Cameron, Germany and the U.K., pushing for a wiser, less hands-on, less intrusive Europe, and yet a Europe that took forward the European ideals of openness and cooperation.

Schauble would like to see Europe concentrate on a few problems, and solve them – good examples would be the refugee crisis, or a Europe-wide energy grid. And if the commission fails to act ‘we must take control and solve problems among our governments’, an inter-governmental not a supra-governmental approach’, moving power from the Commission to the Council of Ministers. (See The Economist’s Charlemagne column.)

This is the process we should have been a part of, working with Germany, putting federalist ambitions out to grass. Instead we have two characters, Fox and Davis, who’ve survived on the fringes of British politics for a few years, pushed into the limelight to negotiate an exit from an organisation that it’s transparently in our interests to be a part of.

The best outcome will be that we negotiate something pretty close to what we have now. But in the meantime we’ll have lost the opportunity to influence the EU, and we’re all the poorer for that.

A cabinet of curiosities

To quote my last post: ‘…the …outright lies which fuelled the Leave campaign….’

One of those who lied is the new Foreign Secretary. The French Foreign Minister recently referred to the lies of the Leave campaign. When asked for a response Boris Johnson referred to ‘the inevitable plaster falling off the ceilings of a few European chancelries’ in the aftermath of the Leave vote. I love the phrase, it’s glib, it’s fun, it’s evocative – and it doesn’t justify for a moment the mendacity of the Leave campaign, and Johnson’s own battle bus. Lies are lies.

Liam Fox and David Davis were always good for quotes in the Leave campaign. The former especially. Mainly of the ‘that’s wrong’ variety, when some hard truth came from an expert source on the Remain side. My guess is that Theresa May in giving them key positions (heading up Brexit negotiations and international trade) has said to them – ‘now deliver’. And it will be they, not the middle-ground compromisers who the Tory right would have slated in the event of a soft Brexit, who take the flak. It’s a the highest risk strategy imaginable. But otherwise her party will remain split. And for them Europe as an issue will never go away.

A resolution, maybe, of decades of Tory party divisions. At whose expense?

‘Take the flak.’ Someone somewhere sometime soon the line is going to find themsleves facing some very hard truths.