Unfinished business ….
If you thought that the EU would show at least some vestiges of acceptance and let us celebrate our Freedom Day in peace, then you were wrong. All their smarmy words of love and friendship notwithstanding, Brussels has shown its pettiness, its ‘we’ll punish you’ attitude yet again.
That’s why we will keep going with this column because Brussels isn’t finished with us yet – not at all! Also, we will have to keep our eyes trained on what this government will do in the next 11 months, starting today. We’ll KBO until the final Big Ben Bong on the 31st of December this year.
In a perfect show of what Brussels has really been thinking about us all along, they removed the Union Jack unceremoniously even before we were officially Out:
“The Union Jack was symbolically removed from a display of EU member state flags in Brussels tonight with just hours to go until Brexit takes place. The red, white and blue national emblem was taken out of the line-up outside the European Council in the Belgian capital this evening.” (link)
There was no ceremony about it – it was simply taken down by two people and not even folded properly. I’m sure the reason was that Brussels couldn’t afford to pay overtime to the officials who had to remove those flags … Do check out this report though – it has some wonderful photos which should be kept for the history book.
Brussels was however perfectly able to hand us a Bill, as the DT’s Brussels correspondent reported yesterday evening:
“The European Commission has issued Britain with a bill for £1.09 billion on the very evening that it finally left the EU. Every year Brussels recalculates the contributions member states make to the EU Budget. This year, due to an increase in Gross National Income and VAT contributions, EU officials believe Britain owes an extra €1.09 billion.The demand for payment was sent to the UK embassy to the EU and has been notified to the British government.” (paywalled link)
How churlish is that! And how this bill came about is, frankly, galling. It’s because the UK did so well, economically, despite the many Project Fear predictions:
“EU sources said the bill was for the period of 2019-20. Britain’s payment to Brussels for 2019 was nearly £9 billion pounds. If the figure is similar in 2020, it could mean Britain pays up to £10 billion in what could be its penultimate payment to the EU.” (paywalled link)
Oh, I don’t think this will be the penultimate payment! Brussels will come up with many more items we’ll have to pay … I do agree with this observation though:
“The monster bill will only add weight to Brexiteers’ argument that Britain is right to leave the EU because it is effectively being punished for the strength of its economy with demands for more cash to be sent to Brussels.” (paywalled link)
Our officials are making reassuring noises but Brussels can no longer try and bamboozle us with speeches of ‘love’:
“This bill will come down in negotiations. But the point is that we need to be in control of our own money. That’s why we’re leaving, ” said a UK government source. The bill emerged on the last day of the EU’s long goodbye to Great Britain as Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, pictured below, said: “We open another chapter. It is a story of old friends and new beginnings.” (paywalled link)
Oh no it’s not! It’s more like ‘meet the new boss – same as the old boss’! When even the DT’s Brussels correspondent (Remain) reports:
“Amid the sentimentality, Brussels flashed some steel. At a joint press conference on Brexit Day, the three presidents of the EU institutions had a stark warning for Britain.“Strength does not lie in splendid isolation, but in our unique Union,” said Ms von der Leyen, adding that the EU was “way more stronger than any single country”. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said: “If the UK decides to diverge from EU standards, it will have less access to the single market.” (paywalled link)
it must be obvious what Brussels has in store for us. There’s more: M Macron for example simply had to spit on us Leave voters while telling his audience that the best way to prevent another ‘exit’ is …. more EU:
“In a televised address, Macron said: ‘At midnight, for the first time in 70 years, a country will leave the European Union. ‘It is a historic alarm signal that must be heard in each of our countries.’ He added: ‘Europe can only advance if we reform in depth, to make it more sovereign, more democratic, closer to our citizens’ so that ‘the desire to leave Europe will never again be the response to difficulties today.’ (link)
Good luck with that, M Macron! Here’s what he really thinks of us Leave voters:
“The French President tonight scolded the architects of Brexit – of which Boris Johnson was a figurehead – for misleading the British electorate. He said: ‘The Brexit campaign in 2016 was made up of lies, exaggerations and simplifications. We must always remember what lies can lead to in our democracies.’ […] He told Britons to confront the cold reality they will no longer boast the same rights in the EU as they currently have.” (link)
The rights of British Expats in France have already been curtailed, unilaterally, according to a report in the DT. Who can have forgotten the outrage displayed by our peacocking MPs in this and the last Parliament who couldn’t screech loudly enough about protecting all those EU citizens here in the UK, after Brexit! Will they now demand the Johnson government do its utmost to secure reciprocal rights for our citizens in France and other EU countries? Or is it yet again something that we do without a quid-pro-quo from the EU?
“As EU nationals, Britons were allowed to vote in European and municipal elections in France, and stand for municipal councillor. But with Britain due to officially leave the European Union on January 31, France has stripped the right of the country’s estimated 160,000 British residents to vote in any local election or sit on town councils. […] The irony is that as things stand, while Britons cannot vote in France, French and other EU nationals will retain their right to vote in local elections in the UK.” (paywalled link)
This next quote is certainly worth keeping in mind because it looks as if the EU member states could do just as they please on this issue:
“As Dr Ruvi Ziegler, a voting rights expert at Reading University, put it: “These rights have not been retracted by the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, nor are they protected. They have been left out. What happens later will depend on politics.” Europe may end up an electoral “mosaic” in which some countries like the Netherlands allow British residents to vote and even stand for local election. Spain looks to be heading in that direction. “But France looks set to deny these rights for Britons, which could open it up to attack in national or European courts,” he said.” (paywalled link)
That DT report concludes with a quote from a British ExPat who has lived there for 15 years, is running his own business and was even elected to the local council:
“It does seem crazily unfair that we – and other foreign residents – get to pay tax but not to choose the people who then go on to decide how the money is spent. And for that, I blame the French more than the British.” (paywalled link)
Perhaps donning Gilets Jaunes would help … or is that uncouth because ‘we’re British’? I wonder what M Macron would say if the government were to rescind those rights for all the French ExPats living here, in a tit-for-tat exercise …
That’s it for today, our first day of Freedom, showing you why we won’t close down, why we will keep our beady eyes on EU shenanigans, and why we will