Khalid Hussain –
Looks like it is obvious to all but the EU that Britain will not stay in the European Union. Why else would they be seen so desperately trying to keep the British from leaving the EU even after three successive parliamentary humiliations the UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been enjoying as pies?
However, whether or not it is humbling for the EU to still go on trying to win the British back, it is obvious Brexit is hardly about votes. March 29 was the day of “Brexit,” with or without a deal. Yet, the EU extended that to April 14 despite having asserted it will not extend the Brexit deadline. Thus the ever-shifting political landscape on the surface layer of British politics –and the obvious EU desperation to win the British back—exposes the real architecture of realpolitik in our world today.
A joint statement by the five EU members of the United Nations Security Council rejecting the US move to recognize Golan Heights as part of Israel makes this obvious. This statement was made by Belgium with France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom flanking. This joint statement by the five EU members in the UN Security Council pointedly included the United Kingdom due to leave the EU in two weeks. It used strong language against the unilateral American statement declaring the EU stands for a rule-based international system. For independent observers like this writer, this diplomatic tiff is very revealing.
Firstly, it contradicts the surface reality of “democracy” in their societies by trying to subvert a popular vote in Britain. Ironically, Prime Minister Theresa May is the one who is for Brexit and have vowed to deliver upon what the people voted for by refusing to even consider a debate on whether or not a second Brexit referendum could be justifiable in view of an obvious majority in Britain now not wanting to leave the EU.
Secondly, it reveals two facts hitherto not well known. One is that the Western Establishment is at war with each other. And that the EU part of this Establishment is now aggressively taking on the United States. That is why seeing the UK representative joining hands with the EU was a delicious twist in the drama of high politics called Brexit.
The falling out of the Western Establishment first became evident with the referendum in the United Kingdom demanding Britain exits the European Union. The public opinion in the UK has since swung the other way on Brexit yet the British Establishment remains adamant it will not consider another referendum. This is very much understandable once we face the reality of power and how it is wielded by the powerful segments in the Western society today.
Since the illegality of the Israeli claim over territories it annexed in 1969 with war has been beyond all doubt, President of the United States (POTUS) Donald Trump is clearly goading the EU Establishment with his offensive acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights. And the EU seems to have swallowed his bait hook, hook, line and sinker in rising to challenge the mighty United States of America. This is but delicious irony that the UK and Netherlands –one remains the key US ally and the other is a known UK supporter—stood with Belgium, France and Germany in declaring their support for a rule-based international order.
In plain language, the EU is desperately trying to save what the US is obviously out to destroy. Yet neither can actually afford to do that since it is this very rule-based international order that guarantees them continuity with their global pecking order and economic superiority. So the game is anything but simple.
That the EU is the only political entity that can challenge the mighty United States on the economic front is no secret. Neither is the fact that the US –and its allied segments of the Western Establishment in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—wishes to put an end to the EU. Hence Brexit and the political sword of Damocles it holds over the European old guard. That the EU is desperate is evident in it extending the deadline for Brexit to April 12!
The British voted to leave the EU in June 2016. The decision has affected politics in Britain and the rest of the EU in surprising ways. Instead of ending a public debate, the referendum in the UK began a fierce squabble. It has also caused a lot of political disruption in the EU with the evident rise of the right in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. The US is known to be working overtime to undermine the EU with the likes of Steve Bennon seeding extreme right wing views across the EU. That the UK remains the staunchest US ally to date is beyond all doubt since the UKUSA agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States which is also known as the Five Eyes.
So banking on the likes of UK and the Netherlands in taking on the United States is a non-starter to say the least. The EU and Britain cannot part as friends and allies. Continuity for one means disruption for the other. Hence a war of attrition is now underway. On one side is the European old guard in France, Germany and Norway while the other group –with UK in the lead—is allied with the United States of America. The EU may be able to match the US might in economics, yet it is no match when it comes to their military might. The US, UK and the rest of the five eyes have always proven themselves capable of arbitrary action. Simply put, this means the EU has no future if the US continues to have its way. The alternate is that the US will have to relinquish its leadership role in the global system.
The EU cannot punish Britain and therefore it cannot stop other countries from following Britain’s example. This is because the Brexit vote cannot be attributed to the “British being British,” for that is hardly the case. British beliefs about being distinct have been around for a long time, so why did they act on it now?
The vote was a British takeover of electoral politics by the Establishment. The same phenomenon has recently swept Europe and the US as well. European integration has been an Establishment-driven process from its very inception in the 1950s. In this era of popular anti-establishment sentiment, it is not the popular vote but the evident discord among the Western Establishment that has seen opposition to the EU increase. This is not just true in Britain but also is also evident elsewhere in Europe. What is unique about Britain is that the Establishment now has an openly hostile attitude.
Yet the EU wishes to play by the rule book and continues to act decent. This is proof ef their being weak. And we all know the fate of the weak is seldom happy.
So why is it so difficult for the EU to let Great Britain leave? EU members have intertwined economies and political and legal systems. It was not even legally possible for a country to leave until 2009 when the EU changed its rules. Yet the fact remains that the international rule-based system the EU so desperately clings too cannot stop the US from acting arbitrarily. And Donald Trump is obviously out there making sure everyone understands that. However, that does not mean the US would want an end to that system either for doing that is tantamount to letting go of all its privileges especially, the right to create the global reserve currency that has made the US the mightiest empire in all of human history.
The EU’s union of 28 nations is the only rival to the US union of 50 states. And the EU is very vulnerable although it has managed to bring together 28 countries with very different histories, cultures and political traditions. However, democracy, peace and the free market are hardly values that can keep them together when push comes to shove. This is exactly what is happening in the wake of the debt crisis that has exposed the inability of the capitalist system to generate further growth with fictional money. Hence the Americans and their British allies have the compulsion to seek a transition into another phase of this rule-based system. This will not be possible without undoing the one that obtains. Hence the war of attrition is very much on. And the EU is on the losing side for the British and the Dutch are all set to jump ship for their own survival.
This exposes the old fault lines in the alignment of the Western Establishment that led to the two world wars. That the EU has no political capacity to resist the mighty Americans has been proven time and again from Brettonwoods to the Nixon Shock. The Europeans were forced to eat humble pie and accept American hegemony. They can hardly resist a readjustment by their more powerful counterparts in the UK and the USA. Compared to the US, the EU is limited in its integration. There is no strong sense of common identity or any independent central institution, the EU cannot survive crises like Brexit. The EU cannot move toward a federal Europe.
So the question is, what happens next?
Khalid Hussain is Resident Editor of TLTP – You may contact Khalid Hussain at Resident.Editor@tltpnews.com.pk
The Law Today Pakistan, commonly known as TLTP, is the largest news wire service, headquartered in Islamabad. The service is providing fast, comprehensive and verified news on superior courts adjudications, regulatory framework of fiscal, monitory and external sectors, economic regulatory bodies amid apex institutions regulating the financial system. TLTP is empowering readers of more than 12 national English dailies in the country.