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By Jason Michael
LUXEMBOURG’S PRIME MINISTER, Xavier Bettel, today empty platformed the British Prime Minister Boris John on his visit to Luxembourg. Johnson dashed off immediately after high-level talks in the small European country – claiming the protest against him in the city was too loud for a press conference, thus turning the latest Brexit drama into what much of the European press is now calling ‘high farce.’ Bettel never missed and hit the wall in his withering condemnation of the British PM’s recent antics and the failure of the United Kingdom to take responsibility for the ‘mess’ it has made of Brexit. Before heading to Europe, Johnson announced that he would lead Britain out of the EU like the Incredible Hulk; a characteristically infantile remark Bettel quickly exploited:
Now we speak about theatre! Yesterday, as I said, ‘someone’ spoke about Hulk. I think it is too serious a matter to speak about actors and about a script.
Xavier Bettel, we can be sure, speaks for the vast majority of European leaders. The United Kingdom’s shambolic handling of its departure from Europe is a serious matter. Not only does this threaten the health and well-being of ordinary people in the UK, it poses a serious risk to the peace and security of Ireland – an EU member state, it promises serious and far-reaching economic consequences for the United Kingdom and the European Union, and creates – by damaging the integrity of the institutions which have preserved peace and coöperation since the end of the Second World War – a set of geopolitical conditions that may indeed lead to the end of peace in Europe. Everything about Britain’s ‘disorderly Brexit’ is chaotic. It is causing toxic levels of uncertainty and instability. Yet, at every step, London has sought to blame everyone but itself.
A tiny country like Luxembourg just stood up to the disunited Kingdom and slapped it right down. And you want to te… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) September 16, 2019
One British narrative – one which has even been swallowed by influential members of the Irish press – is that Ireland is to blame. This story claims, that by refusing to do as Britain wants, Dublin is making Brexit difficult. If only Ireland could be more British, so runs the UK’s media spin, it would defend the border Britain imposes on the nation and give up its insistence on protecting the rights of Irish people living in the Irish territory occupied by Britain. Obviously, this was never going to happen. Ireland had already come to an understanding with the UK over the province in the Good Friday Agreement. Ireland was never going to facilitate British moves to violate that treaty. But seeing as Ireland is not acting in Britain’s interests in Ireland, then – according to the UK – Ireland is to blame.
London has also consistently blamed Brussels for the impasse. Depending on which version of this narrative you hear, the EU simply refuses to let Britain go, it wants to punish the UK by destabilising its currency and weakening its economy, or that the EU is just the new name for a latter-day German empire. The only excuse from London, however, which reads as though it didn’t come from a teenager in a tantrum is the one that suggests Europe’s unwillingness to come to a fair deal – but even this is bogus, a point made by Bettel earlier. ‘We sat around the table,’ he said, ‘we have the Withdrawal Agreement, and this Withdrawal Agreement has been accepted by the UK government.’ He continued:
I just want to repeat and to remind you that Theresa May accepted the Withdrawal Agreement. So, don’t make it like that the European Union is the bad guy, not accepting decisions that the UK proposes. They accepted them, and it’s not my responsibility if they are not able to find a united kingdom back in London and in the House of Commons.
Not taking any prisoners on these points, Xavier Bettel – the Prime Minister of a state with a population of just over half a million – told the assembled press that these were homemade problems for Britain, and he is right. Beneath all the lies and manipulations of the UK government and its tabloidised media is the simple truth that Britain has done this, without any help from anyone else, to itself. Looking at what is the single greatest act of self-harm in Britain’s history, Bettel was having none of it. This is Britain’s fault and it is high time it took some bloody responsibility for the god-awful stink it has created.
Xavier Bettel (@Xavier_Bettel) September 16, 2019
This is a serious crisis, and the effects of what the UK has done and is still doing will ripple through time. In a worst-case scenario, with Britain forced to leave the union without a deal, the economic and political effects will be far-reaching. They will still be impacting on the lives of our grandchildren. The possibility of this pulling the whole of the UK into a decades long economic slump are extraordinarily high, meaning that people’s lives are about to be adversely affected to the extent that most of us will never live long enough to see any signs of recovery. Bad economics, coupled with heightened international trade competition, leads inevitably to bad international politics; a direction of travel which may well see this part of the world dragged back to the conditions that prevailed before 1914 and 1939. In short, the Brexit the UK is forcing on itself and on Europe is dangerous. Parliamentarians on the other side of the Channel are right to be annoyed and frustrated with this, and they are right to refuse to give Johnson or any British Prime Minister anywhere to hide.
After listening to Bettel, it is beginning to look like the legal challenges in London to the prorogation of parliament and to a hard no-deal Brexit are too little too late. The die, it seems, has already been cast. There were rumours that France would veto another extension. Now it looks like it will not be alone. It was never Europe’s responsibility to make Brexit work, and now – by permitting another extension – it is only hurting itself. For three years the UK government has done nothing but burn bridges, and from the mood in Luxembourg today it sure as hell looks like the last bridge has been burnt and the UK is left alone and stranded in a whole new kind of nightmare.
Johnson summons ‘Incredible Hulk’ ahead of Brexit talks with EU’s Juncker