petej + dc:creator=behrrafael   48

May’s desperate pitch for cross-party unity is a leap into the dark | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
The surprise is that Brexit has still not forced any substantial correction of lazy Euro-bashing rhetoric with facts about British interests and the way they were served by EU membership. Continental leaders thought the pragmatic diplomat they dealt with in Brussels was the real Britain and the spittle-spraying nationalist was a stock character, strutting the repertory stage. It turns out to be the other way around. Or rather, the Conservative party has strapped the grimacing mask so tightly to its face that it is no longer a mask. Those are now the distorted features we show to the world.

This is not just disorienting for our neighbours. Millions of people feel that Brexit is a kind of performance that ran out of control; a mirthless carnival that spilled out of some fevered imaginations, captured Westminster and has nothing left to demand now beyond the right to continue spreading chaos. And seeing that spectacle, the question being asked in many European capitals and in many British homes is no longer how Brexit can be resolved. It goes deeper. They ask where the country they knew before Brexit has gone.
UK  EU  Brexit  politics  MayTheresa  softBrexit  CorbynJeremy  LabourParty  customsUnion  Article50  extension  trust  CooperYvette  LetwinOliver  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
21 days ago by petej
The EU knows it, so do our own MPs – Theresa May is finished | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
The bankruptcy of May’s overseas enterprise has been coming since the day she set up shop in No 10. The squandering of credibility started almost at once, with the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in 2016. Only someone with a tin ear for European sensibilities would have given the top diplomat job to a man known on the continent as a rogue peddler of anti-Brussels propaganda.

Then there was the early negotiating period, during which EU leaders thought May’s robotic, inscrutable manner concealed a deep, strategic intelligence. They came to realise that there was no mask. The inanity – the reciting of “Brexit means Brexit” even in private meetings – was not the cover story for a secret plan. It was the plan.

The point of no return was the summit in Salzburg last September. May was invited to make the case for what was left of her “Chequers plan” to European heads of government. It was late. They were tired. There were other difficult matters to attend to. And instead of speaking candidly, persuasively, passionately or even just coherently, the British prime minister read mechanically from a text that was, in substance, no different from an op-ed article already published under her name in a German newspaper that morning. It was embarrassing and insulting. Many European diplomats say that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing.

A similar story is emerging from last night’s summit. May was asked about backup plans in the event that parliament rejects her deal a third time. She had nothing. She restated her determination that the deal should pass. This infuriating obtuseness is grimly familiar on this side of the Channel. Cabinet ministers recognise the experience of being desperate for some glimpse of the prime minister’s calculations. People who want to support her have needed some window into the workings of her political brain, maybe just a peek at her soul. They get nothing. It is hard to build trust with someone so closed and hard to stay loyal.

There was a Salzburg-style moment for pro-European Tories on Wednesday night, when the prime minister went on television to berate MPs for obstructing her deal. The spirit was demagogic, even if the style was typically charmless. Here was a besieged leader, emerging from her bunker, presenting herself as the champion of her people against a rotten parliament. This did not go down well with MPs of any stripe. But it was most counterproductive with moderate Conservatives who have voted for May’s deal twice already and both times seen her respond to defeat by borrowing ideas and rhetoric from the hardliners who have given her nothing but humiliation. She rewards enemies of compromise by becoming ever less compromising.
UK  EU  Brexit  EU27  Article50  extension  noDeal  softBrexit  referendum  PeoplesVote  MayTheresa  leadership  summit  intransigence  incompetence  failure  politics  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael  EuropeanCouncil 
4 weeks ago by petej
Theresa May’s Brexit lost to the ultimate adversary: reality | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
This has been the greatest source of frustration and shock for the rest of Europe: the spectacle of a once serious country, formerly admired for the coolness of its temperament, racing towards perilous choices while turning its face defiantly against obvious realities. That, plus the tragic irony of history creating a vacancy for visionary leadership and then filling it with May.

There is an almost perfect mismatch between the prime minister’s character and the skills she has needed. She was blunt when she should have been diplomatic; inscrutable when she needed to be candid. When imagination was required, she opted for inane repetition. When she should have reached out, she doubled down. She appeased enemies of compromise in parliament and squandered goodwill in the country.

It can be hard to disentangle the disaster Brexit might always have been from the specific mess May has made of it. There are turnings on the road to failure that she did not need to take, junctions that were missed. She did not have to embark on the article 50 route before knowing where it led. She could have drawn different red lines or changed them when they confined her to impossible choices. But while there were problems with the driver, there were also limits to how far she could get with Brexiteer maps, scrawled in crayon on the eve of the referendum with wild, higgledy lines pointing at destinations that don’t exist.

The result is that the country has been driven round in circles. The parliamentary debate on May’s deal today was a gloomier, paler version of the one that was held in January. For much of the day the Commons benches were emptier than last time. The prime minister’s exhausted voice was hoarser. The deal was rejected by a smaller margin not because it has got any better, but because fear and exhaustion are catching up with Tory MPs, overtaking their belief that something better will come along.

As for the implacables who voted against May, they were not jubilant. They inflicted a defeat, but they know also that there was no victory here for any kind of Brexit. A ruinous no deal is still technically possible, but a chain of events has been triggered that could lead to postponement or even annulment of the whole project. The prime minister’s humiliation could rebound on to every Eurosceptic fanatic who urged her ever further and faster down the road to nowhere. Brexiteers have a dangerous adversary that they cannot name. It isn’t any opposition party, or Brussels, or remainers. It is reality.
UK  EU  Brexit  withdrawalAgreement  meaningfulVote  defeat  HouseOfCommons  Parliament  backstop  Euroscepticism  MayTheresa  politics  nationalism  delusion  leadership  failure  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael  intransigence 
6 weeks ago by petej
Don’t expect Brexit to give us a British Alexander Hamilton | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
This represents the confluence of two streams of British political culture. One is anti-intellectualism – admiring the gentleman dilettante who gets by on bluff and charm, socially superior to the sweaty scholarship boy who over-thinks and over-works. The other is moral complacency in holding up victory over fascism in 1945 as proof of eternal immunity to dangerous dogmas.
UK  Brexit  nationalism  delusion  victimhood  entitlement  noDeal  hardship  anti-intellectualism  complacency  politics  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
december 2018 by petej
short thread on a conversation many people having in parliament: 1. everything proceeds from presumption that there is no majority for May's deal. Also, there is no majority for no deal ...
short thread on a conversation many people having in parliament: 1. everything proceeds from presumption that there is no majority for May's deal. Also, there is no majority for no deal ...
UK  EU  Brexit  withdrawalAgreement  Parliament  PeoplesVote  softBrexit  politics  MayTheresa  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
december 2018 by petej
Brexiteers have lost sight of the greatest free trade prize of all | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
No developed country trades purely on “WTO rules”. The idea that Britain should be the first to give it a go has gained currency in the Conservative party from sheer embarrassment. It is not a model for post-Brexit trade, it is a euphemism for failure to understand the true value of EU membership. It conveys a deep unwillingness to admit any kind of dependency on our European neighbours, even the mutually beneficial dependency of the single market – the largest, most sophisticated free-trade zone in the world, conceived and driven in large part as a British initiative, by Conservative governments.

This is the sad island where a generation of Tories find themselves intellectually discredited and marooned. They wanted to unchain Britannia and they ended up uncoupled from their own history, unmoored from basic geography, and adrift from economic reality.
UK  EU  Brexit  trade  customsUnion  RaabDominic  MayTheresa  FoxLiam  WTO  failure  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
august 2018 by petej
The Brexit walls are closing in on Theresa May from two sides | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
May’s legacy as prime minister will be recorded as the collision of those two dramatic electoral events: the one that put her in charge of Brexit and the one that robbed her of the means to do it her way. The Eurosceptic ultras brandish the 2016 result – the single word “leave” – as licence to demand whatever they want. But parliament, elected a year later, has the authority to define Brexit in other, more moderate ways. In popular cultural terms, the referendum was the bigger deal. In constitutional terms, parliament is paramount. The contest between them is nearing its endgame and May looks more like a bystander than a player.
UK  EU  Brexit  politics  ToryParty  MayTheresa  hardBrexit  customsUnion  divergence  borders  Ireland  NorthernIreland  ERG  DUP  Parliament  democracy  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
february 2018 by petej
David Davis is bluffing on Brexit. And now it’s clear for all to see | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
Through all the bluster, swagger, faux joviality, arrogance and complacency of the committee’s star witness one sharp truth shines through. A decision was made last summer to define Brexit as a requirement to leave the single market and the customs union – an action that would quite obviously have enormous consequences for the UK’s economy – and the secretary of state notionally responsible for enacting that decision at no point set about the task of rigorously investigating what those consequences might be.

But a deeper subtext to the Davis argument (one he might not even consciously know) is that it would be a mistake to let the EU know what the UK’s judgment of Brexit’s impact on the domestic economy would be because the impact is so harsh. In other words, if the commission knew that the UK is actually afraid to go through with some of the harder Brexit plans promoted by Theresa May, the talks become a dictation of the terms of surrender. That is indeed the way things have played out so far. The great fear of exposing the government’s hand flows from the relative weakness of the cards it holds.

The bluffer fears being called. Of course, the EU side has understood the relative strengths and weaknesses of the UK position for longer and far better than May or Davis. The prime minister and her secretary of state have been kidding themselves. To sustain the delusion, they have tried to avoid scrutiny in parliament and, by extension, deceive the British public. Is the whole of the government’s Brexit strategy built on lies and obfuscation? Well that depends on what your meaning of the word “is” is.
DavisDavid  UK  EU  Brexit  impact  assessment  analysis  reports  disclosure  dishonesty  secrecy  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
december 2017 by petej
Dunkirk reveals the spirit that has driven Brexit: humiliation | Rafael Behr | Opinion | The Guardian
I fear we are about to rehearse the cycle of shame and resentment all over again. There are two routes ahead, neither free of humiliation. The enactment of Brexit will complete an economic, diplomatic and strategic devaluation that is prefigured already in sterling’s post-referendum slide. Britain will be measurably smaller on the world stage. The reversal of Brexit, or its dilution into some pale simulation of the status quo, requires a plea in Brussels for more time and a fresh start. That will be hard to distinguish from a grovel.

Either way, there is disappointment in store for many leave voters who anticipate a national renaissance. If they don’t get Brexit, their democratic will is denied; if they do, and it makes them poorer, their faith is betrayed. Each path risks incubating more bitterness.

The case for pressing on, in deference to the verdict of the ballot box, has undeniable political and emotional urgency. And once that course is set, a kind of dogged British stoicism sets in even among many Brexit-sceptics. It is not quite optimism, but a determination not to be defeatist. Surely there is some muddle-through solution, some Dunkirk-spirited, make-do-and-mend compromise that gets us all to the other side of Brexit with national dignity still afloat. I certainly hope so. But it is a risky business, seeking comfort in history’s miraculous escapes. They are, by definition, exceptional.

Also, we are not at war. In the national story Britain tells about itself, Dunkirk is a preamble to heroic isolation followed by magnificent military redemption. It is a powerful tale but a rare one. It masks a more banal lesson from the evacuation: retreat is no one’s favourite manoeuvre, but sometimes it is the best one available. Sometimes, when a plan goes wrong and disaster is visible on the horizon, it is time to swallow pride, and turn around.
UK  Dunkirk  defeat  history  humiliation  nationalIdentity  WorldWarII  France  Germany  DeGaulle  EEC  EU  Brexit  trade  economy  negotiations  politics  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
july 2017 by petej
How remain failed: the inside story of a doomed campaign | Rafael Behr | Politics | The Guardian
No one on the remain side fully anticipated an emotional groundswell of contempt for the very idea of political authority as dispensed from a liberal citadel in Westminster. The remain politicians found themselves besieged by an angry insurrection, channelling grievances that were well known. They stood for a cause that became emblematic of a system that was alien, arrogant and remote – and they had no answer.

Stronger In became the holding company for a liberal centrist political concept that had been transmitted in varying forms through the rise of New Labour and the ascent of Cameron. This had been the bastion of political orthodoxy for a generation, but its foundations had been corroded. Parliament’s status never recovered from the expenses scandal. The financial crisis led not to a redistribution of power and greater economic security but to austerity, coupled with apparent immunity for the elite from any consequences of their prior mismanagement. The unique opportunity of a referendum was to give voters the option of punishing a generation of politics, regardless of party allegiance. Those who chose a different path are now left without leadership, barely recognising their own country; the stateless tribe of Remainia.
UK  EU  referendum  Brexit  politics  campaigning  Remain  economy  immigration  CameronDavid  OsborneGeorge  GoveMichael  JohnsonBoris  anti-intellectualism  dctagged  dc:creator=BehrRafael 
july 2016 by petej

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