Brexit, Mafia Gangsters and Farage
The title might read like the latest blockbuster in your local cinema, but unfortunately, reality, sometimes, is stranger than fiction. Or, it seems that Brexit has ended being an unpredictable parade of weird personalities, macho diplomacy and Brexiteer braggadocio. This morning at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, while MEPs were debating their guidelines for the Brexit negotiations, no one else, but Nigel Farage, took centre stage with his antics, making one last effort to enrage European leaders, but potentially sabotaging the UK government’s position. He accused EU officials of acting like “Mafia gangsters” because of their “ransom demands” in the Brexit negotiations.
Farage: “Thank goodness we’re leaving”
Master media manipulator, pseudo-Trump adviser and careerist Mr Farage, found the European officials unreasonable and demanding. Lacking self-awareness and forgetting his own unreasonable promises made to his own people, Farage was “sorry to say that the response to the triggering of article 50 has been all too predictable. Already you have made a series of demands that are not just unreasonable but, in some cases, clearly impossible for Britain to comply with. You began by telling us that we have to pay a bill, a cool £52bn, a figure that has clearly been plucked out of the air, effectively a form of ransom demand.”
Farage continued by inviting the MEPs to acknowledge that the British “have put net over 200 billion sterling into this project, we're actually shareholders...and you should be making us an offer we can't refuse - to go. Mr Verhofstadt tells us that we cannot discuss trade deals with any other country in the world until we have left the EU. That has no basis in treaty laws whatsoever."
Forget all the lines you heard in your familiar gangster movies. Farage is bringing us a whole new repertoire of phrases, insults and threats. Too confident for his own good, Farage imagined entering a room where the European Parliament would be more like Don Corleone: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” But, no such offer seems to be happening yet. Instead Farage, disappointed, said: “All I can say is thank goodness we’re leaving. You’re behaving like the Mafia. You think we’re a hostage, we’re not, we’re free to go.”
After Farage was reprimanded for his “mafia” reference, he “apologised” Farage-style: “I do understand national sensitivities. I’ll change it to gangsters.”
Jean-Claude Juncker reminded Farage that it wasn’t the EU, but the UK that is leaving the EU. Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, addressed Farage by reminding him that “all we are doing is settling the accounts - no more, no less” because no one wants to punish the UK.
Farage also targeted Donald Tusk, the European Council President, by saying “I suspect that he is still crying”, in regards to him receiving the article 50 letter from the British ambassador. Farage’s narcissistic attitudes where everyone
Threatening the EU
Instead of remaining calm, Farage continued his tirade against EU officials, saying that the UK’s departure will hurt the EU.
"It’s not us that will be hurt. We don't have to buy German motorcars, we don't have to drink French wine, and we don't have to eat Belgian chocolate. We can get these things elsewhere. You will hurt your people and your companies if you continue down this route. If you continue down this route it won't just be the UK that triggers Article 50, there will be many more to come."
After Farage left the European Parliament, he told British talk radio Leading Britain’s Conversation (LBC), that Michel Barnier’s speech confirmed that there was “not too much to be optimistic about.” Farage said that it was clear that the European “mafia” was “out settling the accounts” and that they didn’t want to discuss a trade deal until the “ransom” was paid. But Farage who had promised the British people all the great pleasures of striking deals never before imagined and setting themselves free from the shackles of a corrupt European elite, is now facing the cold indifference of the Old Ones. Like Lovecraftian monsters, with cold rationality, the European bureaucracy are not naïve but hard negotiators. If Farage thought that Brexit meant Disneyland, then Barnier’s speech landed him in real life where exaggerated promises are counteracted by realistic arguments.
When the European Parliament president, Antonion Tajani, was asked about the case of Nigel Farage regarding his “mafia” comment, he said that Farage had to show more respect: “We don’t have here mafia [or] gangsters,” Tajani, said.
Guy Verhofstadt’s divorce letter
“Dear colleagues, It was a sad moment” but our relationship “was never easy”, certainly “not ‘wild passion’” but “more a marriage of convenience.” This is how Liberal Belgian politician Verhofstadt’s Brexit speech began today in the European Parliament, reminding us that Britain “entered the Union as the ‘sick man of Europe’ and – thanks to the single market – came out the other side.” But he also paid tribute to Britain’s contributions: “a staunch, unmatched defender of free markets and civil liberties. Thank you for that. As a liberal, I tell you, I will miss that.”
Verhofstadt, who is the lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, recognised that Brexit is not just Brexit but is related to the European project and the need for radical change and a rebirth of a Union “based on values and the real interests of our citizens. A Union that stands up against autocrats” whether they are bombing children in Syria or close down universities. Verhofstadt returned to the initial European values of “freedom, justice, and peace”, perhaps reminding his fellow bureaucrats that the European project can be salvaged, instead of leaving it drown amidst populist cries.
The EU 27 will be “very firm” to the UK
While Farage represented himself at the European Parliament, and not the UK, or the British people’s interests, MEPs took a united decision to be “very firm” during the negotiations with the UK. At his news conference Verhofstadt said that the message of the Parliament is clear and the UK cannot enjoy all the privileges of the single market:
“We ask [the European commission] to be very firm towards the UK authorities because we cannot accept that a state outside the union [gets] more favourable [treatment than one inside].
But, on the other hand, you see in the resolution that we are very generous, open, positive towards UK citizens. That is clear in a number of points. First of all, we want the problem of residents solved immediately.”
Red lines for Brexit negotiations
516 MEPs have voted yes to the negotiating resolution that outlines the European Parliament’s red lines for the Brexit negotiations. But, as we know, the joke in Greece is that when the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras talks about red lines, these are usually, orange or green. Limits and rigid positions in any negotiation are usually not so strict or unbreakable. But at this stage, the MEPs voted, among other things, for “phased negotiations”, a deal after financial liabilities have been settled, and a mere three-year transitional period trade deal after Brexit in 2019. Tajani clarified that the European Parliament has the power and is ready to veto any deal that is not satisfactory.
Maybe Brexit was, according to Verhofstadt a “catfight in the Conservative party that got out of hand” but hopefully younger generations won’t remember this as a “waste of energy, a stupidity”. The EU is after all “generous, open, positive to UK citizens”, and the only way to move on is by avoiding getting “blinded by arrogance” à la Farage.