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The Brexit Negotiations – a German Perspective (Part 1)

Editor’s note ~ This article was published on the Campaign for an Independent Britain site and appears here with kind permission.

This speech By Dr. Markus Krall was delivered at the House of Lords on the invitation by Lord Nicholas Fairfax on October 24th, 2017 Although rather long, we feel it is well worth reading right through as it is a most helpful explanation of the predominant German mindset. The original was first published by Global Britain and is used with full permission.

Honorable members of the House of Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I Introduction and Summary

Before sharing my perspective on the negotiations of the terms of separation of Britain from the EU, or Brexit, allow me to express my gratitude for the invitation and the opportunity to speak to you at the House of Lords. I feel honoured and privileged to have been invited by Lord Fairfax.

This parliament stands as a beacon of liberty and free speech going back to times when the continent was still subject to the power of absolutist, non-constitutional monarchs. This long-standing tradition of liberty lies in my humble opinion at the heart of the decision that the majority of the British people has made with regards to its future role in Europe and the world. I would like to put my deliberations into perspective:  A German perspective I will deliver to you today is not one shared by the German government or mainstream media. It is rather my personal one which is based on a number of discussions with political staff in Berlin, including government officials, members of parliament, and lobby groups.

Based on this I will try to provide you with a brief picture of the German and the Brussels mindset and their interaction regarding Brexit before spending a few remarks on the misguided game theory approach resulting from the underlying ideological edifice.

This will lead us directly to what I think to be the German governments, specifically Mrs. Merkel’s, approach and how the gaps in its consistency can provide opportunities for the UK negotiation strategy. Finally, I will take the liberty for a very short statement why I am taking an EU-critical position in a debate that is well known to my valued audience.

II  The German State of Mind

Now, allow me to start with some observations about what I would like to call “the German state of mind”. I once stumbled upon a little article in the Economist recounting an anecdote from 19th century France: Emanuel Litrè, the leading French linguist of his time once fell prey to an error of judgment and as a consequence was caught by his wife with their housemaid in the conjugal bedroom in flagranti. As his wife entered the room she exclaimed: “Dear, I am surprised!” And what did the erring Frenchman reply? “No dear, you are astonished; it’s us who are surprised.” The term “astonished” very neatly describes the state of mind regarding Brexit in Germany, especially among its economic and political leadership.

Germany is probably the one country in Europe that was emotionally and intellectually least prepared for the news that a majority in the United Kingdom had decided to call it quits with the European Bureaucratic Union. That has several reasons.

One is that we Germans – regrettably – have a tradition of belief in the infallibility of government. While the liberal school of Anglo-Saxon origin views the state and its bureaucracy with a healthy dose of skepticism this is not so to the same degree between the rivers Rhine and Oder. This is also true for the media, which are toeing the “official line” because 80% of journalists identify themselves as left of centre. There is a resulting lack of democratic control and public debate.

Secondly, very much in line with the undemocratic decision-making the EU has adopted, we have seen a systematic erosion of the rule of law in Germany regarding European matters. This included the illegal bailout of broke €urozone members, Greece among others, the thinly-veiled practice of government funding by the ECB through various programs in contradiction of the treaties and the opening of the borders in clear defiance of the Schengen treaty. It is, by the way, a most deplorable observation that you can cajole my fellow countrymen – or at least a sizeable minority of them – into going along with the erosion of the rule of law if it’s for a presumed greater moral good. The end justifies the means.

The EU is a clear beneficiary of this attitude as Government and Brussels have become interchangeable terms for good reason. So for a majority of Germans as well as of officials in Berlin, it was simply an unthinkable heresy when British voters said “we leave”. As it actually happened, they were completely astonished, and intellectually unprepared.

Thirdly, in the past, Germany and Britain have often been aligned in efforts to tame the Brussels bureaucracy, and push the EU towards free trade and open borders. The common market in its original free trade design was largely the result of Margaret Thatcher’s pressure. The Germans, who didn’t have the same political weight as a result of well-known historical developments gratefully took this for granted. The presence of Britain in the EU was in the German view a necessary counterweight to the school of étatisme, the primacy of the state bureaucracy coming from Paris. Now this balance of power in the EU is damaged. To put it bluntly: You guys are leaving us alone with a bunch of socialist Latin-European nut-heads. We are not delighted.

III The Brussels Attitude

The EU bureaucracy immediately adopted a hostile attitude towards your country’s democratic decision. It was viewed as a dangerous precedent, especially in the light of the frictions caused by the Euro and the widening cultural divide between what Donald Rumsfeld once called the old Europe versus the new Europe.

In the bureaucrats’ view, nobody should be incentivized to leave the club or even to think about it. He must not go unpunished. This attitude makes it impossible, by definition, to tolerate an economically successful United Kingdom outside the Brussels sphere of hegemony. Because if Brexit is a success, economically, politically and socially there is proof to the pudding that prosperity is possible without them. The plethora of Europe’s presidents from Schulz (now ex-President) and Juncker to Draghi and Tusk would be walking naked –  emperors without clothes.

The resulting reaction has several elements:

Accusations of the vote being undemocratic because the British voters are not adults, and therefore presumably followed liars, meting out punishment in the form of an extortionate “Brexit Bill”, and propagating fictional beliefs as facts which don’t stand the test of reality.

The result is what I call a Brexit trap consisting of a prisoner’s dilemma to be solved in a timeframe that is insufficient if one follows the Brussels script.  From all this brouhaha guiding negotiation principles were derived with the aim to let that little warm-beer-drinking and on the wrong side of the street of history (let alone real roads) driving inhabitants on a chilly European archipelago understand their political heresy: “Turn back and repent, you English fools!” The indulgence selling priest Johan Tetzel would have loved the drama.

Let us take a closer look at the parts:

Liar’s Poker:

The accusation that the voters fell into a trap of lies originated, of all places, in the EU Commission whose bibulous president Juncker once coined the telling bon mot “if things get serious you have to lie!” Well, let me cautiously put it that way: This is difficult to beat in terms of irony, hypocrisy and unintended satirical quality.

The 100 BN €uro bill:

The final sip that the subsidy-hungry Brussels bureaucracy and its sycophants would like to take out of the net-contributor bottle that generously used to be provided by the United Kingdom. This is the indulgence receipt for those little black souls on the banks of the River Thames. Just to imagine Britain could ever be willing to continue the huge transfers which were one of the main reasons to leave the club is totally bizarre. However, bizarre and Brussels are compatible. The British tolerate this kind of thing by calling it “eccentric” which means several standard deviations away from the norm of mental sanity.

What are those fictions being mixed with facts?

Fiction No 1: “We must not allow cherry picking”

This statement insinuates it is an altruistic act towards others to open your own borders for free trade. The EU which, if the new US President offers himself as a convenient target, presents itself as a champion of free trade and permanently talks of win-win through open borders, yet has no problem whatsoever to ask non-members for entry payments for common market access. That is a kind of protection money in return for not obstructing the free flow of goods and services with tariffs. That doesn’t mean though they will not obstruct it with non-tariff hurdles. They are just giving it a different name. They call it “regulation”, “norms” and “ban” and it’s almost a no-brainer that all the small countries in the Brussels periphery have to swallow these toads and translate everything into their national legislation. Bruxellalocuta, causa finite. Trade imperialism at its best!

Fiction No 2: “The four freedoms of the common market are indivisible”

This fiction is supposed to give strength to the demand of unlimited immigration and to make it impossible for EU member countries and Great Britain to deflect the storm of badly trained and even worse educated immigrants into their social systems. The claim of indivisibility is pure nonsense of course. No free trade agreement the EU has negotiated with third countries under the flag of TTIP, CETA or any other acronym makes this assumption. The reason is quite simple: Other large countries would tell the EU in unflattering words what they think of this if the demand would ever be brought up.

Fiction No 3: The United Kingdom needs the EU more so than vice versa

Yes, the market for goods and services is larger in continental Europe. So what? If you are running a trade surplus of 120 billion Euros annually, you don’t want to put that at risk, do you?

That though is the EU surplus with the UK. A continent that by design and ignorance, has neglected its infrastructure for security and defence over decades might have an incentive to be friends with a country which didn’t commit that folly. Again Brussels has to look over the Channel. The party that has – with over 3 million – three times as many people working in Brexit country compared to just one million British working on the continent should be interested in not failing on a deal to protect all of them, does it? Who needs whom in this situation? Is that really so clear? I beg to differ.

Fiction No 4: 30.000 regulations need to be renegotiated

Smugly the members of the platitude party point out to us that 30,000 EU regulations and laws supposedly need to be renegotiated between Great Britain and the EU27 and that it would be impossible technically to achieve this. In this we can find a misunderstanding and an involuntary confession: The misunderstanding is that Britain and the EU have to agree on all paragraphs of this deluge of laws. Is it not rather a sovereign decision of the United Kingdom to adopt these regulations partly, in full or not at all? If the EU views some of them as conditional for a free trade agreement they should draw up a list and use CETA and TTIP as benchmarks. Then one can discuss if the UK can accept that list or not.

Now to the involuntary confession: We are flooding the continent with so many regulations, laws, executive orders and decrees that it becomes impossible with normal human capacity to comply with the law. Winston Churchill had a comment on this: “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law”. Exactly! Juncker’s minions have over delivered on this by a factor of three.

To continue reading, part 2 of this speech can be found here.

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4 Comments on The Brexit Negotiations – a German Perspective (Part 1)

  1. A wonderful article – thank you, UKIP Daily, for reprinting here

    It is probably the best dissection I have read anywhere of the sheer cant, bullying and brazen hypocrisy of the German and EU’s “negotiating” position in the Brexit talks. Dr Krall’s withering demolition of the fallacies of the German/EU’s perspective is all the more effective for its subtle and unpolemical style.

    For readers who are short of time, scroll down to “III The Brussels Attitude” and read from there to the end to get the gist.

    Dr Krall has perhaps been ill-served by the title to his piece – which may be taken as meaning an endorsement of the predominant German/EU perspective on Brexit rather than the surgically precise demolition which it actually is.

    • It is heartening to see that there are some independent thinkers on the Continent prepared to objectively analyse the EU negotiating stance. I recall the group of German economists and diplomats which wrote a warning, published in the Sunday Times shortly before the Referendum, urging the UK to use this last opportunity to save itself.

      What would be interesting would be to know what effect this speech had on the Lords and whether it changed any minds.

      • Absolutely. Spot on. It is uplifting to read such a brilliant appreciation of Brexit and the independent-mindedness of the British from – a German! And it puts to shame all those treachorous members of our very own British political class who wish to reverse Brexit.

        I doubt if his speech changed any minds among Remainers in the House of Lords, but I do hope David Davis and our negotiating team are studying Dr Krall’s arguments.

        Three cheers for Dr Krall!

  2. As far as the German perspective is concerned, in the words of ‘Gone With The Wind’ my dear, frankly I don’t give a damn.

    European tyrants have tried to crush Britain via trade for hundreds of years. In 1806, the tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte tried the Continental system with the Berlin decree. It was a trade blockade. Moving on a hundred years to WW1 the Germans used submarines to mine British ports and sink British ships. More recently the tyrant Adolf Hitler, tried to bring Britain to its knees with Atlantic submarine wolf packs.

    Domination seems to be something in the mainland European psyche. Now we have a bunch of bureaucrats looking to world domination – starting with the United States of Europe. Anyone who does not want to be part of this, will be humbled by trade embargos – led no doubt by Fuhrerin Merkel. The stumbling block as always, is there is a big wide world out there, and plenty of people to trade with.
    I look forward to eating cheap New Zealand lamb, British fish fished in British waters, and on and on.

    We owe the common market, whatever it is called today, nothing at all. And that is what they should get -nothing.

    I repeat my initial comment – I don’t give a damn for the German perspective.

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