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Yes minister, Brexit
by Thanos Kalamidas
2016-02-28 11:50:43
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“Yes minister” was a BBC TV comedy series written by Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn and transmitted in very early 1980s. Huge success at the time and later I found out that Margaret Thatcher was a loyal fan. Me, I just adore the series. I have watched it again and again and a few years ago I actually got the books inspired from the series.

If you haven’t watch the series, it is all about the ministerial (later prime-ministerial) career of a politician – obviously labour – and his struggles to survive everyday politics, personal interests, ideology, intrigues and a cunning civil servant ...a permanent secretary. Having worked a lot with politicians I insure you that, even though exaggerated, reality was never far from what was happening in this series and I have met "Jim Hacket" (the star minister) many times in my life and in a variety of countries and parties.

My personal favourite episodes were the ones with the "word processors" and the other one with the …British sausage. Coincidentally both episodes satirize the relationship between the British government and public with Brussels and they are both hilarious. However, all through the series EU – then EEC – was presented as a gigantic immovable bureaucratic organization always with unreasonable demands, constantly messing with internal issues, manipulative and staffed with lazy spinners in luxurious offices with big fat salaries. Actually, even though the series put together all the stereotypes people had about Brussels, came out with one solid stereotype for the Brussels bureaucrats. And that was it.

One comedy series that gradually conquered all Europe, intentionally or unintentionally, created the image we all have about EU and its civil services today. In Britain it was adopted immediately; after all even Margaret Thatcher has often made jokes – on and off the record - about Brussels that they weren’t far from the ones in the series.

brex01_400And as if friction was not enough, Thatcher came to add more in this love-hate relationship. After Falkland Islands’ victory Thatcher’s legacy enjoyed one more victory, the one against EEC and the Brussels bureaucrats. Even though a strong supporter for Britain to remain in the then EEC in the 1975 referendum, Maggie was probably the first euro-sceptic in prime politics. In 1988 Thatcher made a speech in Belgium which she outlined her opposition to proposals from the European Community for a federal structure and increasing centralisation of decision-making. Thatcher also made loud and clear that she was going to oppose any suggestion for an economic and monetary union, through which a single currency would replace national currencies as it later happened.

The same time after a long negotiation that had started in 1979, Margaret Thatcher at the June 1984 Fontainebleau Summit, agreed and signed with the EEC leadership on an annual rebate for the UK, amounting to 66% of the difference between Britain's EU contributions and receipts.

This was a huge victory for Maggie and the same time marked something that nobody has ever admitted. The relationship between Britain and EU was not the one of equal partners anymore but the one of necessary commercial allies. Much later Tony Blair tried to change this relationship but without much success postponing in the end decisions for the future. And the future is here, now. David Cameron has announced a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU to be held on Thursday 23 June.

Things in Britain regarding this referendum are a bit more complicated than what Farage and Boris Johnson like to present them. First of all, Scotland, North Ireland and Wales will never support any kind of Brexit for their own reasons, future agendas and plans that not necessarily include England. Still they are a big part of the electoral. Then north England is not happy with the idea of losing the EU subsidies; you see through this love and hate relationship with EU a lot of British politicians have often used EU as the convenient scapegoat, intentionally forgetting to inform the people that UK has actually profited from EU. Oddly but that has happened mainly thanks to the euro-sceptic Thatcher. So now Cameron has to persuade these people, who have been for long brainwashed about the evils Brussels have brought, that things were never exactly like that but Britain has actually profited a lot from this relationship.

Then it is 2016. Not the era of Margaret Thatcher where the pound was an international exchange currency. Right or wrong nowadays in an era of global economy (and global poverty), the British pound has to compete even with the Chinese Yuan and already took a taste of the power this global economy carries when it only took an announcement from Boris to see the pound take a dive.

Even the argument about overwhelming immigration from Europe – Farage, Boris and other British euro-sceptics often arise - is ridiculous if you look under the surface. UK the last 60 years has been overloaded with immigration and that has absolutely nothing to do with EU. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s quote: is the colonization, stupid. I hope this answers everything.

But let’s say that Britain exits EU, – something that I don’t find impossible knowing that prejudice and stereotypes often beat logic – the irony is that while the new situation will be difficult for England – Scotch will definitely ask for another independence referendum immediately after and it is logical, Wales might start thinking of it – it will be great for most Europeans. Not for EU, definitely not for Germany but for the rest, especially the southerners. One of the first logical consequences of a Brexit will be an undeclared war between the pound and euro. It’s about survival for the British pound and re-establishment in the international market. Dollar will love the game and they will make it global in effect to regain global dominance. The same time a Brexit will also mean a defeat to German dominance in Europe and Chancellor Merkel will find herself very lonely without Cameron’s shadow help and support in serious matters. The whole euro-construction will get a hit and today's euro-construction has its foundations in Berlin and the safes of the already trembling Deutsche Bank.

The same time Britain will start feeling another kind of economic heat. The old empire, the Machiavellian financial prince doesn’t exist anymore, it exist only in Boris and Nigel’s dreams and the illusions of some in England. Nowhere else. Actually most of the British industry is not in British hands anymore. Sad example, but not even Manchester United and Chelsea FC are in British hands anymore never to forget media and entertainment. Relax, Buckingham Palace is still British.

Returning to the Europeans, a Brexit will mark the end of the German dominance, possible other exits (The Czech Republic has already announced that in case of a Brexit they are next) and Margaret’s dream, the end of the common currency. If Germany can stand a pound attack there is absolutely no way that Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium and France will be able to stand the combination of deflation, unstable currency and debt the same time. Suddenly even drachma will look good as a solution.

All these while on the other side of the Atlantic a populist unstable character seems to gain ground in a really weird battle for the presidential seat of the most powerful nation on earth, more refugees try to enter Europe, more European governments leave behind democracy and freedom replacing humanitarianism with xenophobia and racism and peace looks nowhere close in the Middle East, especially since Sultan Erdoğan decided to activate his empire dreams even if that leads in a world war.

You see, this is not Margaret Thatcher or Yes Minister era and all these are going to weight a lot when the 23rd of June arrives – without knowing what more it is to come since something new appears every day. Something I keep writing since last year, Grexit and euro-crisis were just the peak of the iceberg, the Brexit is the major crisis that will connect all the others in one and …it just started.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-02-28 13:30:41
Ah, but have we not seen this movie before? About two thousand years ago we see a block of ethnic groups on the European continent united under the banner of the powerful Roman Empire governed by Rome at its center with a powerful cementing imperial army. It has lasted a long time; Latin is the predominant imperial language, of course; Greek is its cultural language and philosophy. It is the burden of the Romans to spread this civilization (Greco-Roman, so called) all over the empire and keep the “peace” by any means; to do that they must continually prepare for war (“if you want peace prepare for war” was the prevailing motto), and in fact they were always at war; they became very good at it, and one of its historians proclaimed that “they make a desert and call it peace wherever they go.”

At one point, around the third century AD the empire stops expanding as it is its imperial colonizing custom and begins experiencing difficulties, it began to unravel; barbaric uncivilized hordes begin pouring in; the center simply did not hold any longer. Enter a political genius by the name of emperor Constantine who may not have been a terribly convinced Christian or man of faith, but reunites the empire under another powerful symbol, the cross, making Christianity legal and protecting it, to the point that a St. Augustine now has to write a tract on the just war to justify Christians serving in the Roman army, when formerly they had been persecuted for refusing to do so. Thus the empire survives for another two hundred years, which my modern standards is a long time.

Those who were inimical to religion said, good riddance it should have ended two hundred years ago before Christianity got a foot-hold and displaced our Olympian European gods (today we have the Euroskeptics who say the same about the new union: good riddance, it should have ended twenty years ago…). But something funny happened: Christianity did not go with the empire. It stayed and became integral part, a sort of cultural cement for the European cultural identity, both West and East; it kept Europe together and gave it an identity (in the east it was called the Byzantine Church and the empire there continues for another thousand years).

Now we are trying a wholly different kind of experiment but the plot remains the same; we just consider it more enlightened and progressive. We are getting rid of retrograde religion, or better Christianity which we consider a foreign myth, as cultural cement and trying the euro and material prosperity, and power and soccer games and rights and privileges devoid of duties and responsibilities and social justice. Christianity has been proclaimed a myth and Christ an imaginative fiction that sprang from the fertile imagination of 12 ignorant fishermen who one fine day decided to stop fishing and spread in Europe this bizarre idea of a God who takes flesh; a Europe who already had Zeus and his son Atlas.…

Alas, It does not look that such an experiment is very successful and it has lasted, so far, only 60 years or so, mind you. The experiment began quite commendably by embracing the best of its Christian tradition but it seems that it has all but rejected it only forty years later preferring to put its confidence in idols such as power and the euro, and bread and games (now called soccer games). The experiment goes by the name of EU, considers itself at the core of Western civilization and at least rhetorically claims Greco-Roman civilization as its foundations, sans Christianity, of course.

It remains to be seen how this second movies ends, but judging from the first one, one cannot be too sanguine about its final outcome. Time will tell. It always does.

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