Proximity and trust

Flag of each of the 28 EU Member States, alongside the European flag

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Brexit, even though it has never been away from my thoughts. Perhaps, by the time I post this we may well have a deal.

There has been a lot of hand wringing and finger pointing around why it has been so difficult to do the easiest deal in history. The majority of the Britsh press has put the blame squarely upon the European Union’s shoulders and we have seen some disgraceful xenophobic commentary from those who should know better.

Having read about the subject over and over again, admittedly from sources potentially biased towards my side of the argument, my impression is that there are two main sticking points, proximity and trust.

Firstly, we are extremely close to the European Union, indeed the UK is coterminous. We have been a member of the union for over 40 years and are still significantly integrated in its operations. This therefore precludes a Canada style deal which is more remote and has a far lower level of interaction with the EU. The USA would be far more reflective of Canada’s EU equivalent. The EU’s concern therefore is that anything it agrees with the UK will be of far greater consequence than that agreed with a country several thousands of miles away.

Secondly is the question of trust. The UK has always had an interesting relationship with the EU. It has, at times, been seen as an awkward partner, though such an accusation could be levelled at many if not most other member countries. Britains seem reluctant Europeans, with attitudes and customs that are at odds with our continental cousins and there are pockets of strong anti-european sentiment. The press is predominantly anti-EU and is happy to stoke partisan, paranoid and patriotic sentiment. 

All of this, along with recent activities by the government add to a lack of trust. If a significant proportion of the UK electorate doesn’t trust its own government then why should the EU. Of course the closer the proximity then the more important the question of trust will become.

Whatever the issues, no doubt pragmatism will ultimately prevail and some sort of deal will eventually emerge but this has not been the UK’s finest hour.

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