We have been repeatedly told that May cannot reveal her hand prior to the negotiations with the EU. Yet straight away we see that threats, the tactic of last resort for the player who has run out of options, may be a mainstay of our position.
In their annotations of the Article 50 letter, the Guardian point out that threats arise in the second paragraph: the top section is from May’s letter, underneath the Guardian’s notes:
If we really wanted to ‘make sure that Europe remains strong and prosperous’ we would not be jumping ship, we would continue to play our part. So not only is it inappropriately amalgamated with a threat, the initial clause is a distortion. So far, so bad.
This arrogance is very similar to the belief in invulnerability that Crusaders carried with them in the early exchanges with Saladin. It is founded on a notion of being in the right, with God on our side, much beloved of Little England:
The First World War, boys
It came and it went
The reason for fighting
I never did get
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don’t count the dead
When God’s on your side
Merkel & Co will simply take no notice. The problem is that once you have used threats, overtly or covertly, implicitly or explicitly, you only have escalation of that threat to bolster your position. And we have no-where to go with that: we export 44% of our goods and services to the EU, while we only account for 8% of their exports. If they wanted to play hardball they could easily afford to ban or tariff exports to the UK for a year or two. Currently 53% of our imports are from EU countries. How would we replace these from countries we currently have no trading agreements with?
The real disaster is not whether our threat will be carried out or not, it is that our European co-respondents may be antagonised by May’s attitude and will respond by hardening their position or becoming less good-willed. So it is a naive and wrong-footed strategy, doomed to hasten the number of our ‘dead’, in terms of lost jobs, diminished prosperity and loss of resources. The clumsiness in May’s letter is simply staggering.
Are we going to need the Blitz spirit. Can anyone else remember the 1950’s when the shops were half-empty?