You can write the script for how this one plays out. At the EU meeting the UK’s Prime Minister was filmed being excluded with no-one talking to her as the leaders did their usual awkward mingling before embarking on several hours of self-regarding and not very effective EU wittering. Satirical shows will run the video. She will be dubbed Theresa Nomaytes (geddit?) and it you are a member of the liberal metropolitan elite party in London then this vindicates your view that Britain has voted to cut itself off from civilisation.
It’s a funny video, although not in the way May’s opponents might think. Funny meaning odd, curious, in that your response to it is probably shaped by your existing view of May and Brexit.
For Leavers – and quite a few Remainers who accept the reality that Brexit will happen and no amount of shenanigans by Blair, Mandelson and Clegg (what a dream team!) will stop it - a British Prime Minister being treated in a rude fashion will only encourage Brits to say “if that’s your attitude then please get stuffed” to the EU.
In that gathering I see a room that is overwhelmingly male – a sausage party of smugness. May is too polite or diffident to charge up to them and start “handbagging” and beating up the boys Thatcher-style, so she hovers. Millions of people, most people, who lack liberal elite social confidence will know the feeling from school or parties ever since. It induces sympathy.
We’re not talking to you, you smell, we don’t like you, is the message. Oh, and the UK is not invited to dinner.
The response all this provokes – in me, anyway – is incredulity at the continuing stupidity of the EU’s leaders in their determination to rough up Britain in a manner that amounts to self-harm. Yes, we voted to leave the EU, which is our right and had been coming for ages, but we cannot leave Europe. That would be a geographic, culinary, cultural, commercial impossibility, thank goodness. That means we are going to have to get along, and find new ways of co-operating and co-existing. Punishing Britain and being rude to Theresa May is simply a waste of time and energy, when the world is changing this fast.
Britain has the leading listening, intelligence and security capability in Europe, at a time when the place is under assault from jihadist maniacs and the Russians are out to discredit democracy and create mischief in elections in Germany and France. Even in its depleted state, Britain is a leading player in Nato, which is dedicated to the defence of Western Europe. On the cyberwarfare front in particular that defence is now an urgent priority.
The UK also provides in the City of London the capital of the eurozone, which makes the giant debt machine go round. The British economy is growing and we buy a lot of cars and much else from Europe.
What will it take to wake up the countries of the EU? Their post-1989 experiment is in a terrible state, with the euro and open borders proving to be a disaster. They need a bit of humility and a rethink.
Away from Brussels the smart Poles have realised that Britain will remain a partner, and are talking of the UK being the key country in the defence and security space in Europe. The Germans too, seem to be waking up to the need for a different way of thinking about these questions. The conversation at a dinner I was at recently with German policymakers and business people was one of the most interesting, open and illuminating things I’ve heard all year.
But Brussels blunders on, playing its usual games, thinking it clever to humiliate the naughty British. Carry on like this and they really can get stuffed.