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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves (3)

On 29 March 2017, the UK PM sent her letter to the EU triggering Article 50, a.k.a. Brexit. She also said that there's “no going back”. However, Article 50 does allow a "going back", simply because it does not prevent it. Politicians seldom say things that cannot be overturned. Usually, “progressive insight” is used for changing course. I still expect the same will happen here.

The UK approach to the Brexit negotiations reminds me of two Sun Tzu quotes: (1) “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. (2) “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.”

In several ways, the UK’s departure from the EU is a blessing in disguise for Europe: (1) The U.K. has been a major obstacle in EU decision making. (2) Any other EU nation will monitor the next 2 years closely before joining the U.K. (3) The outcome of Brexit negotiations will always humiliate the U.K. (eg, exit of Northern Ireland and/or Scotland, progressive insight). (4) It will soon become clear that “the EU holds all the cards across all the dossiers” (quote from FT).

The UK PM has no choice but to continue on her path as the Brexit opposition is still too small, despite 48.1% being against Brexit. It's beyond me that such a vital Brexit decision can even be made with only a 71.8% voter turnout. The joint arrogance of Labour and the ignorance of Tories will cause a major humiliation, which I welcome despite being an Anglophile.

The main exit chapters are (1) future mutual citizens' rights, (2) divorce settlement bill, and (3) future EU-UK trade relationship. The UK wants to negotiate these 3 simultaneously (ie, “divide and rule”). The EU wants a numerical order (1, 2, 3) but will allow a next stage when sufficient progress is made at an earlier stage.

FT, 30 March 2017: “The EU27, of course, would also suffer from a failure to reach an accord. But, as with the negotiating framework, the shock would be asymmetric. Forget the guff about Britain’s appetite for German cars and Italian prosecco. The EU accounts for a much bigger share of Britain’s economic output and exports than vice versa. Germany, as one Whitehall official puts it, might catch a chill, while Britain would be laid low by pneumonia.” Also part 2 of this blog.

The danger for the EU lies in another Sun Tzu quote: "When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” The main risk for the EU is in a total humiliation of the UK. Some EU negotiators probably wouldn't mind crushing the UK into total submission. That would be utterly foolish as it would eventually backfire.

Any divorce is a thin line between love and hate, including Brexit. I've learned two important lessons from my divorce: avoid lawyers and avoid going to court. This is, however, only feasible if one of the parties does not intend to ruin the other party. Only battlefields will show clear victory and defeat. Ultimately, both parties will lose in courtrooms.

D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968) by Tammy Wynnette - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2