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Monday, 17 July 2017

Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves (6) - the Brexit oxymoron

The outcome of the UK's snap election has created a unique situation. Nobody will challenge Mrs May's role as UK PM for the next 2 years. Brexit has become a radioactive toxic file with severe contamination risk. Brexit can only ruin one's political career until April 2019.

The UK PM is actually quite lucky as both main parties do not know what they want. The only thing that UK Labour wants, is to succeed the Conservatives. Afterwards the same chaos will re-emerge as Labour is also deeply divided over Brexit. Hence, no one will dare to backstab Mrs May during the 2017-2019 Brexit negotiations. Mrs May has bought herself 2 more years.

It's quite possible that Mrs May will become the proverbial Phoenix from her own political ashes. Initially, I was quite convinced that Mrs May has a stroke of Machiavellian genius. Her subsequent actions made me doubt my assessment. However, even her apparent clumsiness might be part of her Machiavellian moves. It's often better when people underestimate you.

It's hard to conceive in Continental Europe that hardly any Brit has an idea what Brexit means, apart from Mrs May's rather useless 2016 slogan "Brexit means Brexit". If you don't know where you are going to, then chaos is the likely end result.

The key oxymoron of Brexit is whether the British exit from the European Union is a choice for Nationalism or Internationalism (a.k.a. globalization). Considering pre-Brexit slogans, it was about Nationalism and taking back control from the EU. Theresa May however claims that post Brexit "Britain will lead a new era of free trade" and that Britain is committed to free trade and globalization (eg, NYT). Brexit cannot be both. Hence, the oxymoron.

This key oxymoron explains the British negotiation stance towards the EU: they want a divorce but do not want to leave the house or pay for the joint bills. This 2nd oxymoron explains the often used British proverb that "you can't have your cake and eat it".

Despite an initial and repeated refusal to pay a divorce settlement bill to the EU, "the UK quietly recognised financial obligations to the EU in a written statement to parliament on Thursday" (Guardian): "The Government recognises that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal—and that these need to be resolved."

The current UK acknowledgements on (i) EU citizens living in the UK and (ii) the EU divorce settlement bill are necessary to secure the 3rd agenda item: a future trade agreement between the EU and the UK. In true Machiavellian spirit, the end will justify the means.

The end result may become a major case of window-dressing: the UK will pay (much) more money to the EU (eg, losing UK rebate), and similarly claim independence to its citizens and voters. Everybody happy, at least for now. 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (1991) from Monty Python's Life of Brian

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing