Opinion: Why is the EU so vindictive about Brexit?

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator for Brexit, says the British are going backwards in exit talks with the EU.


Voluntary withdrawal from the EU treaty does not have to be painful

In case you’re wondering where the belligerent spirit went that pushed Europe into centuries of warfare, two major conflicts last century, numerous regional skirmishes in recent decades, and a Cold War lasting nearly half a century, rest assured it is alive and well, albeit channeled into a “peaceful” version in the European Union’s remorseless vindictiveness.

After brutalizing Greece for lying to join the euro and then daring to violate the strictures of membership, the EU has now turned its focus to punishing Britain for having the audacity to reject the stifling bureaucracy of Brussels and the increasingly assertive dominance of Berlin.

In an op-ed entitled “Hell hath no fury like a spurned EU,” British historian Niall Ferguson compares the Brexit negotiations to a contentious divorce. The EU’s insistence on agreement to an exit fee of €100 billion before any discussion of future trade agreements, Ferguson says, “is the equivalent of the spurned spouse demanding the family home, minus the mortgage, and refusing to discuss custody of the children until the deeds have been handed over.”

It was none other than former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who marveled at the vicious retaliation of EU authorities against Greece, tightening the screws of austerity even as middle-class professionals rummaged through the garbage for something to eat and forcing the government to sell off the nation’s patrimony at bargain-basement prices.

“They were lied to by the Greeks,” Geithner said in taped remarks for his memoir, leaked in 2014. “It was embarrassing to them because the Greeks had ended up borrowing all this money and they were mad and angry and they were like: ‘Definitely get out the bats.’” The attitude of European officials, he said, was “blood-curdling.”

Geithner was awestruck that those selfsame European nations who left millions dead on their battlefields in the 20th century could “flail around” and let not only the situation in Greece but the euro crisis itself get to be so bad. “It was a f—ing disaster,” in Geithner’s colorful words.

Now that vindictiveness is trained at London. The thought palpably lurking just below the surface is that Britain must be punished, an example must be set to deter any further escapees. Presumably one of these days someone involved in the backroom conversations regarding Brexit will leak some equally blood-curdling remarks.

It is ironic because the EU was set up to preserve peace and harmony among European nations, not to become a vindictive tool for dominance and oppression. Ultimately, European leaders should aim at whatever policies best ensure peace and prosperity for all Europeans.

Why, really, do EU negotiators have to take a hard line against Britain after a majority of that country’s voters opted to leave? Because then other countries might want to leave? So? What’s wrong with that? Who actually decides which rules need to be enforced with rigorous discipline? Brussels bureaucrats? The German government?

Just how vexed the negotiations over Brexit have become was evident in the reaction to a leaked draft on how Britain plans to handle immigration from the EU. The Financial Times, faithfully echoing the establishment, hailed it for not significantly changing the EU’s free movement rules, at least during an unspecified transition period, thus significantly simplifying the talks.

The pro-EU Guardian, however, cited a number of European commentators comparing the policies to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration bias and calling it “desperate.” One comment from Le Figaro’s correspondent in London demonstrates the full scope of the animus involved. “Brits will have to pick their cabbages and wash their elderly themselves,” Florentin Collomp wrote, according to the Guardian.

It’s a wonder Britain got by so many centuries without free movement of people in Europe.

Full article: Opinion: Why is the EU so vindictive about Brexit? (MarketWatch)

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