Out, Out, Out! Brexiteers Are Driving Britain into a Wall

Unrepentant pro-Brexit politicians like Boris Johnson are pushing the UK government to take a hardline approach to the country's divorce from the European Union. Their tactics reveal their deep-seated cynicism -- and the extent to which they are harming the country.


By in London

For Valentine's Day next week, Boris Johnson has come up with a terribly nice idea. The British foreign minister apparently wants to hold an amicable speech (if it doesn't get delayed) about Brexit to reconcile friends and opponents of the European Union. It's the kind of idea that only Johnson, with his galactic-sized ego, can come up with, the equivalent of a marten trying to settle a dispute in the rabbit hutch.

Johnson and his hardliners recently made it clear that when it comes to Brexit, the time for concessions is over. In December, when Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated a wobbly compromise with the rest of the EU to move forward to the next phase of negotiations, the Brexiteers stayed silent for tactical reasons. For a moment, it seemed as if the more level-headed voices in the government -- those who wanted to bind the UK closely to the EU after Brexit -- had prevailed.

But now the endgame on Brexit has begun, and May will soon have to do something she loathes: make clear decisions. That's why the anti-EU camp is raising the pressure on her on an almost daily basis -- and it is becoming increasingly clear what this is all about for them: a national reawakening, no matter the price.

They seem to have forgotten that in the summer of 2016 the Brits only voted on whether the country should leave the EU, not how. But since then, the hardliners have been dictating their conditions, which include leaving the common market, leaving the customs union, ejecting the EU workers upon whom entire industrial sectors are dependant. They want out! Out! Out!! Out!!! And into a future that nobody describes in fluffier terms than Johnson. For them, it's first and foremost about freedom -- even it's the freedom to drive the country at full speed into a wall.

The breadth of their cynicism became clear when a report conducted by the government finding that the United Kingdom would be faced with considerable economic damage in any scenario in which it left the EU leaked. Even if London somehow managed to secure privileged access to the common market for the country, it found, the economy would still suffer for the coming 15 years.

The reaction of the Brexit hardliners showed the extent to which they were denying reality: A minister threw aside the report, saying that government economic forecasts were "always wrong." Other anti-EU members with the Conservatives even accused the administrative apparatus of conspiring against the government in a targeted manner. Conspiracy theories and imagined back stabbings, it's the stuff of Donald Trump. That which should not be, cannot be.

Theresa May in a Tough Place

And May? She rushed to discount the embarrassing report as "very preliminary." The prime minister is clearly too weak to stand up to the Brexiteers, who recently once again threatened to topple her in favor of -- surprise! -- Johnson, if she compromises or concedes even a touch too much to the Brussels bureaucrats.

The freedom fighters surrounding the foreign minister have gotten cozy with their idea of a "Global Britain" that will again be free to sail around the world once its Brussels anchor has been lifted. They keep themselves energized by talking about how the UK was once a great nation that was dwarfed by its decision to join a club of 27 petty-minded nations, and for whom a world of treasure and adventure awaits.

The fact that the world has thus far politely declined, that dozens of trade deals that existed via the EU cannot readily be replaced, that the island will starve economically unless it turns itself into a kind of Cayman Islands XXL -- all of these things are just alternative facts for the Brexiteers, who don't want to have their dream of a sovereign future dampened. And given that they have enough supporters in parliament, they could topple the prime minister at any time.

Therefore, May has repeatedly given in. She has needlessly questioned the rights of EU citizens in her country. She no longer talks of a customs union with the EU, but rather of a "customs agreement." All of this may sound trivial, but if guards reappear on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, it could torpedo the carefully crafted peace there, another piece of collateral damage the hardliners are apparently willing to accept.

May has yet to reveal how she wants to have the government coalesce around her vision for Brexit. She met twice this week with a round of ministers, of course called the "war cabinet," but it did little to inform people. The EU is waiting, while wringing its hands, for London to share its preferred Brexit "end state," although it currently seems more like an end station.

Who knows? Maybe Boris will manage to reconcile the irreconcilable with his romantic speech next week. And if it leads to a Valentine's Day massacre? That will surely not be what he wanted.


Discuss this issue with other readers!
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pmoseley 02/16/2018
1. Was a remainer, now a hard Brexiteer
The EU sarcasm, bullying and belittling of the UK will only serve to convert remainers and soft Brexiteers into hard Brexiteers, as with myself. It is true that the UK electorate majority voted on whether to leave the UK, not how, but that means leaving the arms of the cartel of protectionist states for a better vision. It does not mean staying in or be tightly woven into the customs union or allowing completely free movement. The EU trade deals are set up to satisfy the demands of 28 states, and many may be more unfavorable to the UK than those it can make for itself. The UK can forge its own destiny - it does not need the EU 'averages' to make headway. And please stop writing that the people of the UK have changed their minds to stay in the EU. They haven't, although I have gone the other way. As for the absence of UK govt's Brexit plans? Please see the UK govt website - there is a white paper published in Feb 2017 that lays out all the plans you, and I, could wish for. "The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union". Now please read it and come back to us with an apology. Project fEUr is dead.
vivericstokes 02/17/2018
Jörg Schindler has the distorted mindset of an extreme propagandist. His writing style is such; that if he were to report on a roadside waste basket fire he would describe it as a raging inferno; threatening the lives of thousands.
broremann 02/19/2018
3. Brexiters
When Britain, mainly the English, decided to leave after the referendum, they did so by hubris which in English translates into freedom, even those of the left who didn`t want to leave any feel they must to protect a democratical decision.
vernony 02/22/2018
4. Which shows which side Der Spiegel is on !
It sounds like a normal Liberal diatribe full of conspiracies and mis quotes and downright perversion of the facts. Firstly Great Britain has always been a global power because it has influence across the world, all tied together by the English language, and the reports here are that many countries have indicated that they are ready to do trade deals with the UK. We are told by the writer that we are moving away from the Customs Union. Great Britain has never said it wanted to remain in the Customs Union, that is partly what Brexit is all about . So you cannot move away from something that was never on the table in the first place. Up to now the main negotiators for the EU have been Barnier and Junckers. Given their lack of international political experience then it is like negotiating with two members of the town council of a medium sized city. They have shown their inexperience by attempting blackmail and ridicule both of which tactics is more appropriate to a school playground. However, PM May made a very generous offer to the EU to pay up to £40,000,000,000 as the divorce bill. This at a time when the EU have suddenly became aware that they will have to put up taxes or cut CAP handouts if the UK walks away from the EU. Should that happen then the UK will be £40,000,000,000 better off and the EU the same amount worse off. The UK is one of the largest buyers of German cars in the world, they are the second largest buyer of French wines. The UK is the biggest market for Southern Irish exports and the third largest markets for exports from Sweden,and Denmark, I have no figures for Holland but it would be substantial. The Irish question raised herein is largely artificial and was introduced by the fallacious EU negotiators because they thought that they had found an insurmountable obstacle to Brexit. The Boarder between the North and South has always been porous it is long and it snakes through wild country, and is crossed by country lanes and tracks. In consequence it has always been an open border, but said not to be because of political denial . Anyway, the upshot is now that there is unrest spreading with Eastern EU states fearful that the CAP is to be cut to them, Holland says it will have to recruit up to 930 new Customs posts to deal with Brexit. The Czech Republic have just voted in an anti EU President. Holland is reported to be not favourably deposed towards paying an extra 1% of GDP to the EU. Indeed the Dutch government are so afraid that a referendum will be called over membership of the EU, that they are going to outlaw referendums (including a referendum to see if they can outlaw referendums) . That figures democracy as never played much of a part in the EU and the EU itself is moving ever closer to being totalitarian
Monty Morthole 03/26/2018
I think Germany needs a change of perspective from its sensationalist reporting of Johnson and his dithering leader who was appointed to replace Cameron who did not honour the result of his referendum. You should ask yourselves why a sovereign democratic state is leaving your precious “union”, which is little more than a 19th century pre-democratic European empire. The dictatorial Berlin-steered campaign against Britain, which is really about the loss of your “union’s” second largest net contributor, has spurred the desire to leave to greater extremes, such that many of those moderates who voted to maintain membership would now vote to leave. People have been saying “oh, it must be in Berlin’s dictatorial DNA, Berlin has reverted to type. They can’t help it, you know”. Some polls indicate that the percentiles of a re-run referendum now would be at 70:30 rather than 52:48. Why should this surprise you? Never mind Britain, you need to focus on why other Europeans have developed such appalling relations within your mythical “union” that is being dictated into being by the unpopulist fanatics like Selmayr, Brok, Weber, Oettinger, or the Schulzes and Merkels of your national politics. If you really are so preoccupied with British affairs (and the loss of our money) you should first ask yourselves with why you are so disliked by the majority of Britons who merely want to prtect themselves with a separate future from the inevitable acrimonious collapse of your regressive and dictatorial experiment. This would be more intelligent than issuing threats and inventing this hollow “EU solidarity” fable to “make an example of Britain” that is droned constantly by Merkel and her appointees in Brussels….and yet you are surprised that the desire for separation has increased since June 2016! The ill-feeling that this has caused will linger for decades.
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