Home articles No deal Brexit better for UK than ‘May deal’ Brexit

No deal Brexit better for UK than ‘May deal’ Brexit

THE United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland ought never to have joined the European Union. Despite its doing so after several years of being rebuffed, mainly by DeGaulle’s France, the UK retained its own currency and refused to join the Shengen area. However, because of the open border between the rest of the EU and the UK, the country effectively has zero control over movement between other countries within that entity and itself. At the same time, citizens from other EU member-states have the right to live and work in the UK, and several million have done so over the past two decades. The problem that has faced British authorities is that passport checks between EU member states is perfunctory, where they exist at all, and hence even those who have entered other EU countries illegally often find it possible to slip into the UK.
As Home Secretary, Teresa May was as Euro-centric as Jean-Claude Juncker, focussing her attention on stopping or at the least substantially slowing down migration into Britain from countries such as India. Any EU citizen with less than a school final certificate was preferred in May’s Britain over even the most qualified doctors and engineers from India, despite the reality that the latter would almost immediately make large contributions to the exchequer through payment of taxes, while the former would often become a charge on the public purse. They may have caused expenditure to grow rather than revenue, but as long as they were European, Teresa May welcomed them. At the same time, students from India were forced to leave for their homes in the world’s biggest democracy almost as soon as they graduated from the British schools and colleges in which their parents had spent extortionate amounts of money to keep them. In contrast, Australia was far more practical, offering those who graduated from its universities a clear pathway towards citizenship, as did Canada. Not so the UK under Home Secretary Teresa May. It is therefore another of history’s ironies that a Little European such as May has now to end her country’s membership of the EU, a group that she never wanted the UK to leave.
The reality is that Teresa May is as different from the fundamental character of the British people as Neville Chamberlain was in the 1930s, until replaced by a Prime Minister who epitomised the spirit of defiance and confidence that had led to London becoming the master of almost a third of the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. Had Teresa May a better understanding of the strengths of her country and the value of the UK following the US example of being open to the best talent from across the country, it would have been the better for her country. Politicians react to a leader based on their assessment of how popular he or she is with voters, and the fragile hold of Prime Minister May over the British electorate (demonstrated in the last election, which she almost lost) has meant that Members of Parliament across political parties in Westminister treat her with some derision. It must be said that despite rejection upon rejection, setback after setback, the British PM who has soldiered on, hoping for the political winds to change in her favour.
Negotiators for the EU have been bluffing when they warned of dire consequences for the UK in case Prime Minister May refused to accept their surrender terms. However, her own lack of confidence in Brexit led Teresa May to accept J C Juncker’s harsh conditions, with only a few cosmetic sops added a few days ago to assuage British public opinion. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, has in contrast driven a tough bargain, ensuring that the border between his country and Northern Ireland will remain open, whether the UK is in the EU or not. At the same time, the Brexit agreement negotiated by Teresa May has placed Scotland at a disadvantage, and it is likely that a second referendum on Scottish independence will get done, in which a majority may opt for Scottish independence as well as membership of the EU while retaining an open border with what is left of the UK after Scotland exits. Through such a move, the UK will in effect have two open borders with the EU, one through Ireland and the other via Scotland.
It makes sense for the EU to ensure that freedom of movement of professionals remain after Brexit, just as it is logical for London to open itself to professional talent from the British Commonwealth, a grouping that still retains substantial sentiment towards Britain, as evidenced by the numerous links between their people and the UK, a tendency which occurred much to the apparent dismay of then Home Minister Teresa May and her fixation on Europe as opposed to the Commonwealth. Only the UK and Germany have borne the financial burden of the EU, with the others being passengers on this twin-locomotive train. Of course, the Germans have derived the trade advantage of having the Euro as their currency rather than a Deutsche Mark that would have been much stronger.
As for migration, Hungary and other members are certain to force through restrictions on migration into the EU from countries that are in a meltdown situation largely caused by policies carried out by the US and the EU and the local leaders they rely upon to carry out such toxic courses of action. Despite a few years of uncertainty, Brexit is the best course for Britain, even though the agreement worked out by Teresa May has not reflected the unique strengths that the UK still possess in the international arena, including in dealings with the rest of Europe. That makes a No Deal Brexit better than a May Deal Brexit.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.