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700 days and a bit of stalling
by Thanos Kalamidas
2017-07-12 10:21:54
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Last week, a group of British IP short-term contractors in EU announced that if EU applies on them the same terms the British government is thinking to apply on the EU citizens living and working in UK after the Brexit, then the day after there will be 45,000 additions in the queues for the unemployment benefits in UK. The same time the EU Parliament warned the UK Brexit negotiator that the British proposals for the EU citizens remaining in UK after the Brexit are plainly unacceptable. Theresa May insists that in the end solution will be found that will serve her new – paraphrasing Trump - motto: Brexit first, but in true: Theresa May first.  

theresa01_400_02Theresa May has never been a leader or a strategist. She has always been a survivor in politics despite her often gaffes; especially while in Home Office where she often championed nationalistic stupidity. Actually this is her personal secret weapon when it comes to political survival. She is like one of those childless old aunts in old British comedies; dominant and snob with an obedience husband who is there like a servant all the time carrying the shopping bags, opening doors for her, while she constantly embarrasses herself with her not so naïve gaffes. Add to that a nationalism based on historic ignorance, stereotypes and the “good old days when we ruled the seas” and you got Theresa May.

However, she is the elected Prime Minister and despite her latest stupidity to call for elections and her personal defeat, she’s still Prime Minister and she is the one who puts the bases for the Brexit talks and despite all opposition in her own party the alternatives at the moment are even worse than Theresa May. All it takes is to imagine Boris Johnson for Prime Minister and then you start appreciating even Theresa May. There lays the other reason May survives. The Tories are deeply divided despite keeping a united front in the surface. Actually when it comes to Brexit they are far more divided than the opposition Labour party that seems to have a never ending leadership issue.

Even though many believe that the Tories have always been euro-sceptics the truth is that in the British parliament the Tories – except the Liberal-Democrats – have been by far the most pro-European party in UK. In fact it is false to say that Thatcher was anti-EU, Maggie was totally pro-European, she actually7 fought for EU and she wanted a UK part of the EU knowing that UK can stand alone and EU was its natural environment. What Thatcher didn’t like – and with a good excuse as history has proven by now – is the way Brussels works, the centralization and often despotism and this is what she wanted to change. Brexit was never an option for her. Theresa May tries to project herself as a continuation of Thatcher’s wills but as I wrote above, this is based on historic ignorance and stereotypes. Actually when it comes to Thatcherism, David Cameron was much closer to Thatcher’s EU than Theresa will ever be.

Returning to Theresa May and Brexit negotiations while most believe that there is no realistic strategy and no plan on how to achieve a Brexit that will not hurt UK and judging from Theresa May’s history and profile there is a very May strategy: stall and delay. Funnily, Theresa May follows exactly the same strategy the Greek Prime Minister followed in his negotiations with EU based in the game theory, delay and stall until your opponent is dispirit for a solution since there is no plan B. and the truth is that there is no Plan B for EU when it comes to Brexit. What EU is going to do if there is no agreement in anything before the end of the two-year negotiations? Close the boarders to UK or send back all the (nearly 4 million) British citizens? Won’t that violate EU principals? What about exports and imports, will Brussels forbid any commercial relationship with UK or no European transportation company will be allowed to cross the channel? None of these can happen. So what will happen if UK refuge to agree in anything, especially the money compensation EU is expecting? How will EU enforce its will and what will be the punishment? Actually this explains why Theresa’s rush to trigger article 50 and start the negotiations. She thinks that she has a plan.

Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, newly elected in January 2015 had a similar strategy when it came to negotiating with the euro-zone members. There is no way to kick a member state out of the Eurozone so in front of a possible domino effect that would destroy the economies of all member states they will have to negotiate and compromise with Greece, first bravely cutting the country’s debt to at least half. And he followed exactly the same policy, stall and delay. For six months. What he didn’t get was that while he was stalling and delaying all the Eurozone member states stealth their economies – mainly their banking system – independently and when they were sure that even if Greece bankrupted nothing would hurt them then they started pushing the Greek banking system to the cliff by husting the cash flow and cash circulation. Actually they gave a brief chance to Greece to see how the world will look when there is no money around. The result was devastating leading the Greek government into a total defeat and surrender to all Eurozone proposal which in the end turned to be like surrendering terms with some of them having an actual punishing character.

One of Tsipras biggest mistakes was that he played his “game” based on stereotypes, even including stereotypes on how the game should be played, that’s why in the end he started talking about unethical attitude. Theresa May seems, at least for now, to play exactly the same game and the problem as Tsipras found out after six months, with these kind of negotiations is that …time flies and two years might be closer than just 700 days and a bit.

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