Brexit, pursued by a bear

"You can't leave now David- The Russians are back!"

“You can’t leave now David- The Russians are back!”

The deal on offer from Brussels to Cameron this week was given a further dramatic feel by EU Council President Donald Tusk’s use of Shakespearean verse;

“To be, or not to be together, that is the question which must be answered not only by the British people in a referendum”

His use of the lines from Hamlet Act III, Scene I did resonate with those who merely see the whole process as entirely stage-managed, played-out with artificial suspense before Cameron plays the hero and rescues his country (and his party) from the perils of an un-orderly EU-exit.

But the other 27 countries of the EU will also have their say at the EU summit in 10 days’ time. Given that the proposed deal involves non-Brits getting cut-out of welfare some governments might ‘lose the plot; thus scuppering the deal, as anyone with experience of EU summits knows the script is often torn-up and re-written many times.

David Cameron for his own part seems to being taking his lines not from Hamlet but The Winter’s Tale as he travels to Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary this week where he will attempt to convince the heads the government of mostly Eastern European states (from where it is imagined many recent migrants come) in order to get approval at the summit. How to get them to agree to discrimination against their citizens? The answer was alluded to in one of Tusk’s previous letters, when he wrote in December last year:

“In times when geopolitics is back in Europe, we need to be united and strong. This is in our common interest and in the interest of each and every EU Member State. The UK has played a constructive and important role in the development of the European Union and I am sure that it will continue to do so in the future.” 

Tusk is the first EU President from a former Eastern bloc country and to many on the EU’s Eastern edge the primary role of the EU, like that of NATO, is very clear: a bulwark to protect against Moscow. Given the manoeuvres of Russian armoured divisions in the Ukraine (just over 1,000 Miles from Warsaw), few could blame them seeing some very real ‘geopolitics’ getting closer.
While Paris and Berlin often like to sound conciliatory towards Moscow (partly due to their energy needs) London always takes a firm line with the Russians, something appreciated on far end of the continent, whose governments share none of France’s misgivings about the US’ presence in Europe and all backed Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But while British conservatives see Brussels as hijacking control over their borders, many further East see it as the guarantor of theirs. Its weakening or the loss of a key strategic ally could be devastating to their new security arrangements.

It’s still unclear how the governments on Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia will feel about Cameron’s offer but Poland’s eurosceptic government is already sounding more optimistic. Yesterday Prime Minister Beate Szydlo said Brexit would be “unimaginable” and could well lead to the collapse of the EU. While discrimination is bad, isolation and exposure to Russia would be worse. Her party is allied to the Tories in the European Parliament which could help any agreement clear another hurdle on the road a referendum, now likely planned for 23 June.

Even before the EU offer was released their foreign minister called for a deal to be struck :

“It would be very difficult for us to accept any discrimination … unless Britain helped us really effectively with regard to the Polish defence ambitions”

Sure enough two weeks later the Ministry of Defence announced that over 1,000 British troops would be committed to Poland over the next two years.

Few would have predicted that it would be Vladimir Putin that helped an intrinsically Eurosceptic British Conservative Prime Minister in his bid to reconcile his party to the EU (for now at least) but such may be the new realities of 21st century Europe.

Arguably the most famous part of A Winter’s Tale is the stage direction: Exit, pursued by a bear.
It seems that in the event of Brexit many on the EU’s eastern fringes are worried about pursued by the Russian bear.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Less Hamlet: more Heinrich Faust.

  • chrisjones2

    You miss the rest of the quote

    “To be, or not to be, that is the question:

    Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

    And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep

    No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

    The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

    That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

    Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,

    To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,

    For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

    When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

    Must give us pause. There’s the respect

    That makes Calamity of so long life:

    For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,

    The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely, [F: poor]

    The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized]

    The insolence of Office, and the Spurns

    That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

    When he himself might his Quietus make”

    Time for a bit of Quietus free from the Whips and Scorns of the Union!!!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Forgive me for asking this but Brits would be the victim of any welfare hand-break particularly if they live in the Republic of Ireland, France or Germany. Let’s also not ignore the main reason why Bulgaria is concerned about the hand break is not the Brits using it but the Gemans, Swedes and Austrians using it.

    But don’t worry, because Leave have a strategy in their own imaginations that they can laser guide all negative reactions to the British population coming from the rest of the free world by waving Union flags and complaining they aren’t getting enough. Once they can banish the EU from their imaginations they can get around to imaging solutions to global market forces and equality of status in international law.

    As one Brit put it best every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

  • NMS

    Mr. Cameron appears to have completely failed to think through the consequences of agreeing a referendum. He is now forced into group hugs with the Poles & Hungarians and a variety of other rather less pleasant leaders. The same lack of foresight is reflected closer to home.

    Mark Durkan & Margaret Ritchie raised the issue in an Irish context in the UK Parliament yesterday. There are many thousands of UKs resident in UKNI receiving Ireland’s universal Child Benefit because a parent is working in Ireland.

    In the case Ukexit (Brexit implies that UKNI goes into limbo, a lost unwanted soul suspended in the ether), then of course these people as non EU residents would not be entitled to Irish largesse.

    I understand that the Dept. of Social Protection are being forced to consider major legislative changes, if the UK votes to depart. This would be separate from strictly enforcing habitual residence rules. This will involve a much wider consideration of the position of those living in Northern Ireland.

    The problem for UKNI is that Cameron was completely unaware of the issues until Enda Kenny recently told him, and admitted this when the SDLP members raised the issue.

    This proposed referendum could end very badly and very messily.

    The Durkan question is & Ms. Ritchie’s

  • Paul Hagan

    Interesting, I think we’re going to see a lot more of these complicated issues

  • Paul Hagan

    The ECHR doesn’t have anything to do with the EU, although the tories are thinking of leaving it, although I’ve heard less of that plan lately

  • Paul Hagan

    Beautiful passage. I could have pointed-out that it’s about whether or not to commit suicide and leave it at that, but neither nor Mr Tusk wanted to do so at this point.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I wonder if it would be considered largesse if a UK citizen got paid more than an Irish person doing the same job in the UK, or it would be considered largess if an Irish citizen got paid more than a UK citizen in the Republic of Ireland.

    How much economic activity do you really provide a nation simply coming out of a uterus in a hospital within that nation?

    When it comes to EU vs. Non-EU I should probably remind you that the UK has benefits arrangements with Australia, the United States and Canada, I’d imagine if there is a Brexit one would be found for the RoI and EU.

  • NMS

    Yes, I gather the senior management of DSP are extremely exercised about the issue. The issue of other rights will also come up. There is a similar type of problem relating to Moldova, where many of its citizens are in a position to claim Romanian passports.

    A UKNI outside the EU would perhaps have many parallels with Moldova.

    The key point is the complete lack of preparation of Cameron on the issue. What were his advisers doing? Much of the North’s milk production is I understand processed on the other side of the Border. The importation of a product massively in surplus inside the EU, from outside of it, would surely be problematic. No wonder the DUP don’t want the referendum close to the Assembly elections!

  • NMS

    Bi-lateral Social Security agreements do exist between countries but are limited. Ireland has such with the US, Japan, Australia etc. Generally deal with pension issues. Here is a link to details of the Ireland/Japan agreement

  • Roger

    Top class NMS.

    I love your point about “Ukexit” rather than “Brexit”, though I think Ukexit doesn’t roll off the tongue so well. Ukout maybe? As in, UK out of EU? But not pronouncing U.K. and just going with Ukout…Just a thought.

    Do you feel NI is not clear enough and UKNI is needed? If so, why? I’m just curious. I quite like UKNI. I think I’ve used it a few times in the past too.

  • Roger

    I don’t know what the second sentence was intended to mean, but it did pique my interest!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Given that The Republic of Ireland has more British claimants in its jurisdiction than the reverse, I think this would be more like Norway-Sweden than Ireland-Japan.

  • Kevin Breslin

    To be fair I’ve read it differently and laughed a bit.

    Non UK nationals denizens have been given rights in the UK for around 300 years, I don’t think the UK will be willing or possibly able to undermine many of the fundamental rights foreign workers would have access to while still expecting migration to fill skills shortages. I don’t see any UK government taking the biscuit by denying equal access to public services including benefits to all non-UK (Irish & Commonwealth if necessary) workers for long periods.

    The UK right wing is probably more likely to follow the Danes and force their own native populations to work to earn the right to obtain benefits, ten years down the line rather than deny migrants equal opportunities to basic services after working a prolonged period of time.

    Otherwise you simply create a deterrent for migrants to fill skills gaps and bring in high specialisms.

  • Richard N

    Cameron is ‘an intrinsically eurosceptic’ Prime Minister?!

    Give me a break!

    Cameron is, like all heads of government of major EU countries, a signed-up, totally obedient puppet of the EU and its US globalist masters.

    If Cameron was not a quisling of the EU and those which control it, he could have demanded – and got – a ‘trade only’ relationship with the EU, with ease, despite all the screamings and threats that the EU goons would have issued. They can’t afford for Britain to leave the sinking corpse of the EU, no matter what.

  • NMS

    Uxit, with a short “u”? It is not the UK without NI, but used together for emphasis.

  • NMS

    Kevin, A very good point. However Norway is regularly described as a “EU member by fax”. It pays into the EU and incorporates EU policies into its legislation, after it receives them “by fax”. There is no sign that this will happen, if the UK departs.

  • Oriel27

    yes, Ballyrashane and Monaghan creamery are joint now – LacPatrick the company is called.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If that’s the case I feel the UK is headed for something like the Turkish Customs Union, if there’s a Brexit probably because it’s the path of least resistance and the path of least invention. It’s not what all Leavers want but it’s probably the best they are willing to offer the EU which will mean it is the best the EU will offer the UK.

    I don’t think British industry, the City, UK ex pats, the scientific community would be happy with it. To be honest I don’t think major Leavers like the Brugges group or UKIP will be content with it either. Those who will be would include oligarchs who put their money elsewhere and maybe a few newspapers. The Turks are a very protectionist nation in terms of trade, and probably close to Old Labour in terms of politics, it could be a bigger nightmare than the EU ever was.

    The U.K. a bit like Trump saying “We could have had it all” but might just end up calling “Hello”, a thousand times.

    I think maybe the worst analogy in terms of Social Security is what Kallingrad or the Ukraine has with Poland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t think it really is that easy, because effectively the commonality of EU law means every piece of EU legislation is connected to trading between nations in some way, including the free movement of people.

    In terms of opposing globalism, whether you are the 5th richest country or the 105th richest country in the world, you can’t “opt out” of global economics without going to a North Korean isolationist mentality, and arguably not even then. You are talking about a phenomenon which hasn’t existed since before the Wanderlust. Even neanderthals were globalists.

  • Old Mortality

    If they reside in the UK, can they not claim the comparable benefit there? Could they possibly be receiving child benefit from both jurisdictions? Surely not.

  • NMS

    Child Benefit is universal in Ireland, no means test, unlike in the UK. There are arrangements for transfer of information to ensure double claiming does not take place, however who knows. But a claim could be made in the UK.

  • NMS

    If I remember correctly Donegal Creameries bought out a number of milk businesses. These are now part of Aurivo (Connacht Gold). But in the case of Ukit, then Tyrone milk would be as alien as Russian.

  • Roger

    I like your ideas … but this one makes me think of Uganda.