We see the real (bad) face of the EU – they hold the lifeboats in Brussels JONATHAN | Express commentary | Comment
The EU’s behavior is not unexpected given the unfolding crisis within the bloc and has highlighted the potential for serious political earthquakes in the crucial Franco-German alliance. The row threatened to escalate with naval gunboats at the scene amid threats from France to cut power to British Crown dependency – something even the Nazis failed to do.
The TC&A is simply establishing a system to maintain certain pre-Brexit fishing rights. French fishermen were apparently unhappy at having to provide electronic surveillance data to prove they had previously operated in Jersey waters.
But read between the lines, and it’s a France and an EU in fear.
After missing out on the pandemic crisis – from Coronabonds – the EU faces imminent instability, especially with the upcoming departure of Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, someone who more than anyone has helped to keep the club together.
On top of that, there is now a real threat for Marine Le Pen to become President of France next year. Although Ms Le Pen’s party has officially abandoned its exit from the EU, that could change once in power.
In the policies of the beggar-your-neighbor, the devil-takes-the-last-behind of EU countries during the coronavirus crisis, we have seen the real face of the bloc.
When the chips are depleted, everyone scrambles for the lifeboat and to hell with the rest.
Southern Europe risks finding itself in an even more indebted and impoverished situation, while Central and Eastern Europe is increasingly ostracized as it moves away from the liberal consensus of the Brussels elite.
Polls suggest that French and Italian support for leaving the EU could be substantial if Brexit is seen as a success – a major concern for Eurocrats.
Back in France, the French president’s disapproval rates are currently around 59% and have been in that range for the better part of the year, while the intention to vote currently has Ms Le Pen ahead of President Macron in the first round, although not the second – that said, the gap is closing.
This will undoubtedly terrify Brussels and Paris, threatening to hinder future federalism if not to implode the whole project.
There is no doubt that the French president may feel the need to take a particularly tough stance with the UK, appeasing the fishing constituency that could be critical to his chances of re-election. In this context, we can appreciate the recent sound of saber.
Of course, the EU was always going to play hard with the UK, lest other worried member states would consider leaving, especially those in Central and Eastern Europe who would have a natural partner in a President Le Pen, and who have – for the most part a part – kept their own currencies and could therefore extricate themselves more easily from the club than members of the euro zone like Greece or Italy.
The EU appreciates the Le Pen threat and the potential instability of outgoing Chancellor Merkel.
President Macron – who is undoubtedly performing in front of a national audience – may feel the need to maintain a firm stance, while the EU will use whatever is at its disposal to punish Britain lest other states don’t think about going their own way.
Maybe all the UK needs is a little patience until this house of cards falls apart.