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The European Union’s Brexit Endgame


December 2016

by John Brian Shannon | December 8, 2016

In the aftermath of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in the UK, British MP’s have proposed the Conservative government authour a Green Paper, a Blue Paper, or a White Paper (these are different levels of British government policy documents) to inform members of the Parliament and the public about the government’s Brexit plan.

Ranking even higher than such policy documents would be a Public Inquiry, or the highest ranking, a Royal Commission (which although quite costly) employs all the resources of Her Majesty’s government to find the best solutions to the most important problems of each era.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has so far resisted such calls for transparency claiming that by showing their hand it could help the European Union thwart Britain’s advantage in upcoming Brexit negotiations. (And I think she was mostly right about that)

But presenting a secret Brexit plan to the EU also implies presenting a secret Brexit plan to UK citizens — and that’s undemocratic.

Yes. Britons voted for Brexit! And yes, Britons voted for a Conservative government!

But they didn’t vote for Theresa May as Prime Minister, they voted for David Cameron. Not only that, but Britons didn’t vote for a secret Brexit plan to be imposed on them — should the EU accept without changes, Theresa May’s secret version of Brexit.

Therefore, Theresa May has taken not one, but two, liberties with voters. They didn’t vote for Brexit plans that were to be kept secret, and all of it decided by a Prime Minister they didn’t vote into office. Yet, it’s probable she was pursuing such a path in order to obtain the best Brexit outcome for Britain.

For small and medium policy decisions that’s 100% acceptable, but it isn’t acceptable for top-level policy decisions resulting in major changes to the way the country operates — even though she has likely done so with the best of intentions and with the best Brexit result in mind, from the British-point-of-view.

To my mind, the government now needs to show a high level of transparency with voters. Had Theresa May been voted into office by voters and not by Conservative Party members she would’ve had more wiggle room on this.

But the simple fact is, she inherited David Cameron’s chair, voters didn’t select her. Had she won the Prime Minister’s chair from the outset, she could’ve gotten away with publishing a very generalised Green Paper at any time in 2016, and the electorate would have simply trusted her to finish the job.

That’s the problem with inheriting a sitting Prime Minister’s chair; You inherit the position, but not their political capital, nor their popularity, nor their credentials.

Which is why MP’s are now calling for a detailed policy statement. And there’s no doubt any such policy documents will become public, even if it gets marked ‘Sensitive’ or ‘Classified’. It’s just the way of things these days.

Which gives the European Union an edge that it wouldn’t have otherwise had in the Brexit negotiation process.

Thanks to the UK Supreme Court ruling, and thanks to British MP’s who now demand full transparency, PM Theresa May cannot now produce a ‘fait accompli’ Brexit document to the EU Parliament and use other, non-specified leverages to get that document quickly approved by the EU Parliament and approval by the 27 remaining EU member nations.

For Theresa May, that’s a big loss, because that’s obviously what she had planned.

But it’s all moot since the UK Supreme Court ruling, and since notable British MP’s have called for a policy paper to guide the government itself, the House of Commons, and the public, on matters Brexit.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that my argument in favour of PM Theresa May, is true.

It doesn’t matter anyway. Because powerful political and psychological forces are at work in the EU Parliament and in EU member states. They’re upset that Britain is leaving the EU. Plain and simple.

And, why not? Britain pays the largest NATO contribution, it’s a large net contributor to the European Union budget paying-in much more than it receives, and it has allowed Eastern European governments to offload millions of their unemployed citizens to Britain. Why wouldn’t they want that to continue when it’s so obviously in their own best interests?

Surely, the EU plan is to reject any and all Brexit proposals — believing it’s in their best interests to force either a so-called Hard Brexit or a No Brexit result.

It’s not that EU leaders are  evil — it’s pure common sense from the European Union point-of-view.

“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” — former British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865) also known as Lord Palmerston

We’ll eventually see that no matter how well-intentioned any Theresa May Brexit plan is, no matter how many White Papers are produced, no matter how many warm and fuzzy photo opportunities with EU leaders, the answer is going to be a resounding ‘No’ to any Brexit plan produced by the UK government.

Which leaves only two options: Hard Brexit, or the option that the European Union governments prefer, reversal of Brexit.

See? It’s too hard to leave. So just stay.’

It’s so obviously the EU strategy, that the British strategy must now be all about countering the European Union strategy.

UK Supreme Court rulings, MP’s demanding policy documents and any other happenings, must now be seen as incredibly minor waypoints along the path the EU is driving the British people towards; Hard Brexit (which Europhiles hope to make as ‘scary’ as possible) or Just Stay.

We must drop the notion that the European Union is going to be ‘looking out for Britain’s best interests’ and realize that even the most well-intentioned Brexit plan will be rejected, for the express purpose of forcing a show trial in the UK court of public opinion where the only two options will be; Hard Brexit or Just Stay.

Why? Because EU politicians believe that’s in the EU’s best interests.

Reacting to any Brexit news in the meantime, is merely tilting at windmills. The real show hasn’t begun.


  1. Tim Walker says:

    Unfortunately, I must agree with your analysis of the EU’s tactics.

    We must expect an attempt to punish the British, if Britain proceeds with Brexit.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I’m actually expecting a bit of a showdown to occur, with the EU states rejecting any Brexit proposal, to force either a (seemingly) ‘easy’ reversal of Brexit, or a (seemingly) ‘painful’ Hard Brexit.

      Great to have your thoughts on this!

      Best regards, JBS

  2. Tim Walker says:

    Thank you JBS.

    In the short term, I see two options that Britain will pursue with a hard Brexit:

    Renewal of ties/expansion of trade with Commonwealth countries.
    Expansion of trade with NAFTA.

    Of course, with Canada there is an overlap of 1 and 2. Actually, people have commented online that CETA would have expanded Canadian/UK trade, with nearly half of Canada’s EU trade actually being with Britain.

    Longer term…Russia?…India?…Pacific Alliance?…????

    • Hi Tim,

      I very sincerely hope that you’re right. Both renewal/expansion of trade with Commonwealth nations AND expansion of trade with NAFTA nations.

      In fact, I hope the first post-Brexit event to occur, will be the United Kingdom joining the NAFTA family — and I have longer-term hopes that all Commonwealth nations would join NAFTA.

      An Atlantic free trade zone — with a robust Atlantic Ocean naval and airpower component led by a United States Admiral and a British Commodore or Admiral that alternate in the top position (much like the NORAD agreement between Canada and the U.S.) would be de rigueur for the purposes of at-sea antipiracy missions, member-nation sovereignty protection, and at-sea interdiction of contraband, not to mention rescue missions — has long been a dream of mine.

      I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on that.

      Thanks again for posting your intriguing comments here at Letter to Britain.

      Cheers, JBS

  3. Tim Walker says:

    Hello, JBS.

    I believe that you are concerned about keeping the sea lanes open. This a long term concern for a maritime country such as Britain. You have interesting ideas regarding institutional arrangements. NATO, as such, wouldn’t be adequate, because it doesn’t cover the Pacific or Indian oceans.

    Regarding trade deals…I don’t know what the institutional arrangements will be. This has yet to be worked out. For example, I can imagine the UK trading with NAFTA countries with new, but separate arrangements. For example, trade with Canada through either an enhanced Commonwealth, or a CETA type arrangement. Web sites have suggested a bilateral UK/US trade deal. Trade with Mexico with a UK/Pacific Alliance trade deal, perhaps.

    Possible new trades deals between the UK, Russia, India, southeast Asia, etc.

    • Hi Tim,

      If I would rule the world (Hehe) I would put the U.S. in charge of the Pacific under a NORAD-style agreement with China and Japan switching positions in the #2 and #3 naval command positions, every two years.

      In this way, the largest power has the most responsibility, while the 2nd and 3rd powers learn how to work together on common goals (such as the security of the trillions of dollars of trade that passes on and over the Pacific every year) for the express purpose of making China and Japan part of the solution instead of (potentially) part of the problem.

      I would do similar in the Atlantic, with the U.S. and UK switching the #1 and #2 naval command positions — and as appropriate, adding other Atlantic naval powers to that command structure (Brazil, South Africa, etc) again, for the express purpose of making all powers in the Atlantic, part of the solution rather than (potentially) part of the problem.

      And yet again, I would do similar in the Indian Ocean, having the UK and India switching the #1 and #2 naval command positions — and as appropriate, adding other Indian Ocean powers to the naval command structure. Again, for the overriding purpose of making all Indian Ocean nations, part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

      Maritime security is a necessary first step to protect international shipping routes, and we know that reasonable Free Trade Agreements always increase GDP in practically every nation. Opening up to international trade is what made Britain the mightiest economic power in the world, and it remained so for some time. The U.S. followed the British example and superceded (Canadian spelling) Britain. All trade is good, no matter the size of any nations’ economy.

      It’s my hope that others see the long-term value of this and work towards such common goals.

      Thank you for your many excellent comments here at Letter to Britain!

      Best regards, JBS

  4. Tim Walker says:

    In terms of trade, I can imagine a loose Commonwealth/NAFTA over lap. What ever the institutional arrangements, the result would be a large trade grouping or network, with large aggregate population, GDP, and resources. The grouping would include two of the very few global financial centers: London, which is number one globally, and New York, in the number two position.

    The UK is one country that will have viable trade association(s) as an alternative to the EU.

    Eventually, the UK will prosper, and the attempt to make an example of Britain will fail.

    • Hi Tim,

      I fully agree with you. Although I mention NAFTA membership for Britain as a goal — it could be any bilateral or trilateral agreement that works to standardize trade rules and deepen political and economic ties.

      Your suggestion about a CETA-type agreements between North America and Britain are valid and might even surpass what NAFTA membership could accomplish. And I would hope that all Atlantic nations would want to join such a free trade zone/naval command structure.

      Again, similar could be done in the Indian Ocean, with less American involvement — but only because most of the population there are Commonwealth of Nations members, and not associated with the U.S.A. in any political or economic manner.

      In short, I believe that America should concentrate it’s focus on the Pacific (#1) and give a much lesser commitment to the Atlantic (#2) leaving Britain in charge there.

      While India and Britain would work together under the auspices of The Commonwealth to enhance and protect trade in the Indian Ocean.

      The biggest thing (upcoming) in the world is the $110 trillion Pacific trade zone (by 2025) and the second biggest thing in the world is the $80 trillion Atlantic trade zone (by 2025) and the third biggest thing in the world is the $60 trillion Indian trade zone (by 2025) and everything else on the planet is small potatoes, IMHO.

      The Americans will have their hands full — even with Japan and China helping — in the Pacific.

      Leaving the Atlantic to (primarily) the Brits, with some U.S. commitment.

      Leaving the Indian Ocean to (primarily) the Brits and Indians.

      Very grateful to read your thoughts on these pages at Letter to Britain.

      Cheers! JBS

  5. Tim Walker says:

    I have been posting to City-data.com. For the United Kingdom forum I started a thread regarding trade options.

  6. Tim Walker says:

    BTW, regarding City Data, I have been watching interactions between Brits, and people in continental European countries. The continental people seem to assume that Britain will be isolated, poor, and lacking in allies. There seems to be a negative reaction to Brexit that is emotional.

    • Hi Tim,

      I agree with you that continental EU citizens seem upset that millions of Britons voted to leave the EU. They see it as a loss for their own countries, I suppose, as the UK is a net contributor the the EU budget, likewise with NATO contributions, and Britain helps the rest of the EU by taking in hundreds of thousands of Eastern European economic immigrants and thousands of Middle Eastern refugees — that continental Europe would otherwise be forced to accept.

      Also, it may give them the uneasy feeling that maybe the EU isn’t the best deal, after all. You know, that uneasy feeling when the sand is shifting under your feet. Not good for human psyche.

      I’m not too worried about Britain, post-Brexit. In fact, I think Britain’s dance card will be full. Nobody need worry about her.


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