Four Royal Navy ships will be sent into the territorial waters of Great Britain unless a trade agreement is reached with the EU.
Armed with cannons and machine guns, they will patrol the English Channel and the Irish Sea to stop illegal fishing.
In a dramatic mess of No Deal's contingency planning, Wildcat and Merlin helicopters are also being put on standby to aid in coastal surveillance.
Military personnel were dispatched to the Joint Maritime Security Center to assist in clashes in fishing grounds.
Naval ships could even be ordered to seize rogue French fishing vessels.
The UK will send four Royal Navy ships with cannons and machine guns to patrol the English Channel and Irish Sea and stop illegal fishing unless a trade deal is reached with the EU
This map shows the extent of the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters that Britain will regain control of after Brexit. Currently, the EEZ of each EU Member State is grouped into one large zone accessible to fishermen from across Europe
The possible use is reminiscent of the cod wars of the 1970s. At times the Royal Navy stopped Icelandic boats that disrupted British trawlers.
The move is unlikely to calm tensions before tomorrow's deadline for a decision on whether to continue trade negotiations.
Boris Johnson warned yesterday that no deal is now "very, very likely," which means Britain would have to act as part of an "Australian relationship" with the EU.
The Prime Minister had tried to speak directly to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, but the French and German leaders rejected his approach.
Refusing to adhere to the catch quotas, Mr Macron insisted that he was unwilling to "give up my share of the cake":
- Mr Johnson met Michael Gove and senior officials last night to review no-deal plans in case he breaks off trade talks tomorrow.
- The Governor of the Bank of England insisted that the financial system was in an incredibly strong position;
- The pound fell, however, and analysts warned No Deal could bring the value of leading companies down by £ 36 billion.
- Farmers feared flocks of sheep over the prospect of paralyzing export tariffs;
- The roads to the canal ports were blocked again yesterday.
Fishing rights have been one of the key issues in the trade talks. Both sides disagreed on how much access EU fleets should continue to have to UK waters.
Earlier this week, the EU suggested that it should have the same access as it does now for at least another year – even under No Deal. This idea was rejected by the British ministers.
The Department of Defense has been preparing contingency plans for a number of outcomes for months at the end of the transition period on December 31.
It is feared that a no-deal result could lead to clashes between competing boats. Internal government warnings from EU fishermen continued to fish in UK waters later this month.
A 34-page “officially sensitive” document on reasonable worst-case scenarios states: “Fishermen in the EU and the UK could conflict over lost access to historical fishing areas and illegal fishing could increase significantly. "
The Royal Navy has developed a number of enforcement measures to protect Britain's status as an "independent coastal state".
The four ships would be deployed "when things get lively," government sources said.
The Navy is believed to be preparing to deploy two Batch 1 vessels and two Batch 2 vessels that are nearly 300 feet long and weigh 2,000 tons.
The Batch 1 ships are armed with 20mm cannons and 7.62mm machine guns. The Batch 2s have 30mm MK44 Bushmaster cannons.
A Navy source said, "Chances are you'll get a couple of these at sea on New Year's Day."
The insider added that requests for assistance would be coming from other government departments, adding, "We will lean on assistance wherever it is needed."
A government source said, "They will be able to assist border forces and intervene if there are boats in our waters that are not compliant and unwilling to disembark."
"If there is a fishing vessel within 12 nautical miles that is not ready to leave, the Navy will step in."
In addition to providing physical presence and deterrence, the ships can also inspect ships if necessary.
The Navy has eight offshore patrol vessels and has sent their crews on courses to learn more about protecting fisheries. Helicopters could be drafted to search for groups of ships.
Mr Gove warned in October that the Navy would patrol British waters in the days following the transition period. The cabinet minister said they would "ensure that no one abuses their rights when it comes to access to our fishing waters".
Top Brass has put 14,000 employees on standby to respond to No Deal and help roll out coronavirus vaccines and potential severe weather events.
Norway announced yesterday that it will close its fishing waters to European and British vessels from January 1st. Oslo signed a bilateral agreement with the UK in October but would like this to be part of a trilateral agreement with the EU first.
"If we don't reach an agreement by January 1st, we won't open Norway's commercial fishing zones to EU and UK vessels," said Minister for Fisheries and Seafood, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen.
Ursula von der Leyen, pictured next to Angela Merkel and Charles Michel, told European leaders at a European Council meeting that there is now a "higher probability of no deal than deal".
Now it's Le Snub: No deal on a knife edge, but Macron and Merkel will not take Boris' calls
FROM JOHN STEVENS IN LONDON AND JAMES FRANEY IN BRUSSELS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
No deal is now "very, very likely," warned Boris Johnson last night when Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel refused to speak to him at all.
The Prime Minister will decide tomorrow whether Britain should be brought out of the European Union without a trade deal.
He stated yesterday that leaving without an agreement was "wonderful for Britain and we could do exactly what we want".
Before the deadline, it became known that the French President and the German Chancellor had denied Downing Street's request to make emergency telephone calls in an attempt to break the impasse.
No deal is now "very, very likely," warned Boris Johnson last night when Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel refused to speak to him at all. Pictured: Boris Johnson visits Blyth Beach on the way back from a visit to the National Renewable Energy Center on Friday
While attending an EU summit yesterday, Emmanuel Macron (pictured in Brussels on Friday) refused to move on the key issue of catch quotas, insisting that he was unwilling to "give up my share of the cake".
Instead, the two most important heads of state and government in Europe have demanded that all negotiations about civil servants be conducted in Brussels.
While attending an EU summit yesterday, Mr Macron refused to move on the key issue of fishing quotas, insisting that he was unwilling to "give up my share of the pie".
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the assembled leaders that she believed there was a greater chance of a no deal now than an agreement.
PM puts the big guns together to get the battle plans in shape
Ministers were rounded up on Downing Street by Boris Johnson last night to review "battle plans" in case he breaks off trade talks tomorrow.
The prime minister has taken over the no-deal preparations and wants high-ranking officials to meet around the clock.
A committee headed by Michael Gove has spent the last few weeks various scenarios of "war games" trying to leave the EU without a trade agreement.
From next week it is expected to take place several times a day if the negotiations with Brussels fail.
Government departments have begun drawing up their no-deal plans, which include the launch of a new 24-hour border operations center.
The state-of-the-art facility will collect live information on the border river and help government and police make quick decisions.
Even if there is a trade deal in place, ministers predict disruptions at the border in the New Year that could last months.
The French authorities will impose full EU customs and controlled physical checks on all goods.
The government has admitted that up to 7,000 trucks may have to wait two days in traffic jams.
UK and EU negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier will continue talks this morning in Brussels to resolve the two biggest stumbling blocks on Britain, which is setting its own standards under a trade agreement and fishing quotas.
Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen have set a deadline for tomorrow to decide whether it makes sense to continue negotiations. It is believed the prime minister could fly to Brussels if he believes there is a chance of a deal.
The Prime Minister said Thursday he was ready to go to Paris, Berlin or "wherever to try to get this house and get a deal".
However, an EU official announced yesterday that Mr Johnson had already been told he needed to negotiate with the European Commission after requesting a phone call with Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel on Monday, which was denied.
On a visit to Blyth, Northumberland yesterday, Mr Johnson admitted that he was not hoping for a breakthrough in trade talks.
“Unfortunately, at the moment, as you know, there are two important things that we don't seem to be able to make progress on and that is that kind of ratchet clause they put in place to keep Britain bound by what they want to do with the provisions of the regulations Legislation that obviously doesn't work, ”he said.
"And then there is the whole issue of fish, where we have to regain control of our waters." So there is still a long way to go – we hope that progress can be made.
“I have to say that from my current position here in Blyth, there is a very, very likely possibility that we will have to find a solution that I think would be wonderful for the UK and that we would be able to do exactly what we do want from January 1st.
"It would of course be different from what we wanted to achieve, but I have no doubt that this country can get ready and, as I say, come out on world trade terms."
At a press conference yesterday in Brussels, Ms von der Leyen insisted that the UK would have the right to derogate from its rules under the EU's proposal, but insisted that measures such as tariffs and quotas should be put in place if that became one Competitive advantage.
“You would stay free. If you want, you can freely decide what to do, ”said the President of the Commission.
"We would simply adjust the terms of access to our market based on the UK decision and vice versa."
When asked for her comments, a Downing Street spokeswoman said, "I would say there is nothing new here. Because they still say they are adjusting the conditions they impose on us for access. And our position on sovereignty remains unchanged. "
Regarding fishing, Ms. von der Leyen insisted that European boats have a "legitimate expectation" of maintaining access to British waters, as has been the case for "decades and sometimes centuries".
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte last night called on both sides to find a compromise.
He said: “The only thing I can say to myself, our side, but also to Boris Johnson, will be inexplicable to the rest of the world if Britain and Europe are unable to reach an agreement. In these times of upheaval. "
SIMON WALTERS: How the Australian rules come with a serious health warning for Boris Johnson
BY SIMON WALTERS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
Boris Johnson has a new trick when asked about the prospect of a No Deal Brexit outcome: he talks about Australia instead.
He did it again yesterday and compared leaving the EU without a trade agreement as an “Australian-style option”.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister said cutting ties with Brussels "on Australian terms" would allow Britain to "thrive powerfully" and seize "amazing opportunities".
His justification for calling it the 'Aussie option' is that if we leave the EU, it is increasingly likely that we will have to act on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms without a trade agreement with it. This is how Australia deals with the EU.
Boris Johnson (pictured) has a new trick when asked about the prospect of a No Deal Brexit outcome: he talks about Australia instead
If the trade talks between the UK and the EU cannot be saved, WTO rules will apply to us: British companies will have to pay tariffs on many goods traded with the EU – just like Australia.
The thought of a seasoned communicator, Mr Johnson, seems to be that “No Deal” has a threatening sound and that “WTO rules” are dizzyingly complex.
They sound more like some kind of American wrestling circus than a manual on how much to pay for Spanish tomatoes.
But former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has poured a bucket of cold water over Mr Johnson's attempt to give No Deal a sunny Australian makeover.
He warned the Prime Minister on Thursday's Question Time on BBC TV that "be careful what you want" when using Australia to label No Deal attractive.
Trading with the EU through WTO rules has created "very big barriers" for Australian farmers, Turnbull said, and the UK would face similar problems.
"It will be pretty disappointing, I think you will find out," said Turnbull, Australian Prime Minister through 2018.
“The Australians would not consider our trade relations with Europe to be satisfactory. I don't think Britain would want it from a trade point of view. So be careful what you wish for. "
The thought of a seasoned communicator, Mr Johnson, seems to be that “No Deal” has a threatening sound and that “WTO rules” are dizzyingly complex
Therefore, Australia is currently negotiating its own trade agreement with Brussels, he added.
Mr Johnson's critics say that comparing a Brexit No Deal to Australia's trading terms with the EU is misleading.
They indicate that the UK trades more than half of its goods with the EU, compared with just 11 percent for Australia. and Great Britain is 20 miles from continental Europe: Australia is on the other side of the world.
It is not the first time that Mr Johnson has presented Australia as a template for his Brexit policy. He won the EU referendum in 2016 by promising to restrict immigration with a new "points-based system based on the Australian model".
Cynics said his reasoning had little to do with the merits of a points-based immigration system.
Britain has had one for non-EU immigrants since 2007, they stressed; and in Australia the scoring system was not designed to keep the numbers down.
The Prime Minister's critics said this was because focus group research in recent years has shown the British are largely positive about Australia, the land of golden sands, cricket and kangaroos – and are tough on immigration.
Have you think of a TV movie about asylum seekers in Australia being housed in camps on remote Pacific islands – although this has nothing to do with the points-based immigration system.
They view Australia as a predominantly white country, while the number of foreign-born Australians, including many from ethnic minorities, has risen sharply in recent years.
Not all Australians are as gloomy as Mr Turnbull is about Britain's post-Brexit fate under WTO rules.
Tony Abbott, Australian Prime Minister from 2013-2015 and now a UK Trade Ambassador, claims we have nothing to fear.
"Let me assure anyone in the UK who is concerned about the prospect of no deal that Australia trades with the EU worth $ 100 billion each year on that basis," he said.
We may find out the truth about a Brexit under Australian rules in 20 days.
MARK ALMOND: The EU is the sick man of Europe with a crippling money crisis, bankrupt bureaucracy and infighting – despite insisting that Britain be left behind after Brexit
With MARK Almond for the daily mail
Let's imagine that tomorrow evening at the eleventh hour a Brexit trade agreement is announced.
Aside from the sentiments of die-hard remainers who will never accept our exit from the European Union and die-hard Brexiters who complain about a "sell-out", it is fair to say that a mood of relief would take over Britain.
Tired of the stop-start negotiations, the threats and counter-threats, the game and the brinkmanship, most of us want a solution, and businesses want security so that we as a nation can move forward and start repairing the economic damage of the pandemic.
No. 10 will present the deal as a triumph. Like Brussels, and the Eurocrats congratulate each other on pushing Boris Johnson to his limits.
Let's imagine that tomorrow evening at the eleventh hour a Brexit trade agreement is announced
But in my opinion – and whatever the details of a deal will be (if there is one) – the Macron, Merkel, von der Leyen & Co celebrations will be premature to say the least.
For weeks now, the focus on both sides of the channel has been on what a deal or no deal would mean for the UK.
The assumption is that regardless of the outcome, the EU will maintain its progress and prosperity without us.
According to this short-sighted narrative, if we strike alone as the EU, united and focused, sails on calmly, we are the ones exposed to a storm.
Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth.
With or without agreement, the EU faces monumental problems on every front, from economic sclerosis and population decline to growing divisions among its 27 members.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to document the tensions between the richer core states – France, Germany and the Netherlands – and Greece and Italy, let alone those taking root among the poorer new members of the old Eastern Bloc.
Since 2016, hostility to Brexit has fostered a kind of flat unity across the union. But once the UK ceases to be Brussels' scapegoat, the EU will face its own chronic failings.
The European project is in crisis – if you like, both of them are broke and woke up. The entire governance model is outdated and unsuitable for the challenges of the 21st century.
This is too often ignored in the UK as our Brexit tendencies are navel. This is currently being mirrored in panicked reports of a no-deal scenario, speaking of impending food shortages, bottlenecks in ports and the rejection of British passport holders in Europe at Border Points.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of a meeting on Wednesday at the EU headquarters in Brussels
With perverse joy, the Remainer also use the Covid crisis, which is largely responsible for the port problems, to anoint us again as the "sick man of Europe".
Such grins, however, overlook the fact that Belgium, home to the European Commission, has the world's highest per capita death toll from Covid-19. And with its federal constitution, its multilingual composition and its paralyzed decision-making process, Belgium is the EU in the microcosm.
Make no mistake, the vast Brussels empire is in decline, weakened by its ideology and bureaucracy.
Decades ago the EU had an attraction. Successive UK Prime Ministers in the 1960s and early 1970s saw entry into the Common Market as a panacea for our own economic troubles.
In 1973, Edward Heath agreed to what Brussels asked. The French negotiators thought it was a great joke to ask about an island nation's fisheries and could not believe their luck when they were given them.
But now, as the EU has stagnated and the rifts deepen, Europe's condescension towards Britain has been replaced by a determination to punish us for our insolence if we dare to leave.
In 1973, Edward Heath agreed to what Brussels asked. The French negotiators thought it was a great joke to ask about an island nation's fisheries and could not believe their luck when they were given them. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron during negotiations on Friday
Deliberate intransigence in the Brexit negotiations is of course part of the Brussels campaign to discourage other members from taking a similar step. Similarly, Malta, Poland and Hungary have been threatened with financial consequences – such as withholding Covid recovery aid – if they do not comply with EU dictates on political, legal and freedom of speech.
However, this impulse to punish is not the action of a safe, thriving organization. On the contrary, it is the behavior of a desperate institution that is plagued by weaknesses.
At the heart of the EU's unfolding nightmare is the nature of its mission to achieve "ever closer union" through political integration.
Building on the noble desire to prevent another European war, this goal has become a wrecking ball against national democracies and economies.
The dogma of federal unity led to the creation of a single currency that fueled unemployment and indebtedness by depriving member states of the ability to set their financial policies and interest rates according to their own needs.
The EU is currently informing the UK about compliance with its "rules". But it grossly overran the same rules to facilitate the admission of troubled, indebted Greece into the euro area with disastrous consequences.
Likewise, the obsession with free movement is driven by a determination to create a new concept of European citizenship by weakening national identities. This quest also failed.
The mass migration from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe to member countries with better prospects has led to social upheaval, welfare burdens and damage to individual economies.
Think what the loss of so many young people of working age has meant for their home countries.
Aside from the strain on family life and the loss of income and tax revenues, many EU Member States are facing aging populations and falling birth rates.
Furthermore, the feeling of having lost control of our borders undoubtedly played a crucial role in Brexit. Similar fears exist today that Germany insists that member states accept their share of immigration quotas.
The lack of flexibility is another consequence of Brussels' fixation on unity.
The EU sticks to the management model and revenue growth of the late 1950s, when there were only six founding members of the then EEC. It is totally unsuitable to have 27 members in the 21st century.
Die Tatsache, dass die EU sechs Monate gebraucht hat, um einen Covid-Notfallbudget zu vereinbaren, zeigt, wie langsam Europa geworden ist.
Sagen Sie, was Ihnen an Whitehalls Umgang mit Coronaviren gefällt, aber Bundeskanzler Rishi Sunak konnte auf jede neue Herausforderung sofort reagieren, nicht nach monatelangen Telefonkonferenzen mit 27 anderen Finanzministern. Dass Großbritannien als erstes Land der Welt mit der Massenimpfung mit einem Covid-Impfstoff begann, war laut Gesundheitsminister Matt Hancock eine direkte Folge der Tatsache, dass unsere Regulierungsbehörden den Pfizer / BioNTech-Impfstoff schneller verfolgen konnten, als auf die europäische Zulassung zu warten .
Was die veraltete, bürokratische Haltung der EU noch schlimmer macht, ist, dass ihre Finanzen kurz vor dem Brexit stehen und die Kommission etwa ein Fünftel des Jahresbudgets verliert.
Das bedeutet, dass die Bürger in den reicheren Ländern Westeuropas dem Druck ausgesetzt sein werden, ihre Zahlungen zu erhöhen. Wenn der enorme Beitrag Großbritanniens einen Anreiz für die Brexit-Wähler darstellte, sollten wir uns daran erinnern, dass die Deutschen und die Niederländer als Einzelpersonen ein Abonnement für die EU zahlen, das groß genug ist, um jede von ihnen die jährliche Mitgliedschaft in einem exklusiven Londoner Club zu erwerben. Das Anheben der finanziellen Anforderungen wird die Spannungen nur erhöhen.
Inflexibilität und Ideologie haben die EU auch auf der globalen Bühne gehemmt. Als das europäische Projekt zum ersten Mal konzipiert wurde, wurde die Welt durch den Eisernen Vorhang zwischen Kapitalismus des freien Marktes und diktatorischem Kommunismus geteilt.
Westeuropa und Nordamerika waren die Kraftwerke der Weltwirtschaft. Japans Aufstieg war eine erste Warnung vor dem Wiederauftauchen Asiens, von Tigerökonomien wie Südkorea und Singapur bis hin zur finsteren Mischung aus Maoismus und Markt, die China heute zur Werkstatt der Welt gemacht hat.
Doch worauf haben die EU-Kommission und das Europäische Parlament ihre Kräfte konzentriert, als sich die ostasiatischen Rivalen von Covid erholen und ihren wirtschaftlichen Vormarsch fortsetzen?
Anstatt sich dieser Herausforderung zu stellen, wälzen sie sich in den „aufgewachten“ Formen politischer Korrektheit und halten an dem unternehmensschädigenden, arbeitsplatzzerstörenden Wohlfahrtsmodell fest.
Die endlose Flut selbstverachtender Propaganda über die Missetaten der europäischen Zivilisation untergräbt die Widerstandsfähigkeit des Kontinents, ebenso wie seine Dynamik durch die Bindung an riesige, knarrende Programme der sozialen Sicherheit zerstört wird.
Europa macht nur 7 Prozent der Weltbevölkerung aus, aber 50 Prozent aller Sozialausgaben. Kein Wunder, dass alle am schnellsten wachsenden Volkswirtschaften außerhalb Europas liegen.
Es ist eine weitere reiche Ironie, dass der Fokus auf Integration tatsächlich Disharmonie fördert. Als Reaktion auf den Fortschritt der politischen Korrektheit gibt es in Europa eine neue Ost-West-Spaltung, in der Polen und Ungarn sich weigern, Regeln des Alltags zu erlassen, die die Justiz- und Medienfreiheit und sogar ihre eigenen Verfassungen regeln, die ihnen von einem Ausländer diktiert werden Leistung.
Es ist nicht verwunderlich, dass Menschen, die den Kampf gegen die Herrschaft des Kremls in der kommunistischen Ära angeführt haben, sehr empfindlich dafür sind, von Brüssel herumkommandiert zu werden.
Die EU wird natürlich vorerst taumeln. Aber die Risse wachsen.
Die Spender haben es satt zu geben und die Empfänger fühlen sich aufgefordert, die Stiefel derer zu kriechen und zu lecken, die geben. Euro-Stolz kommt vor einem Sturz.
Die ärmeren Teile der EU könnten die arrogante und kurzsichtige Elite in Brüssel stolpern lassen, wenn sie versucht, den 27 Mitgliedern eine Zwangsjacke aufzuerlegen. Da der EU-Haushalt mit dem Brexit stark schrumpft, wird Brüssel weniger Karotten haben und muss sich auf mehr Peitschen verlassen, um die Dissidenten auf dem Laufenden zu halten.
Und die Mängel der EU spiegeln sich in der derzeitigen Präsidentin der Europäischen Kommission, Ursula von der Leyen, wider, deren mangelnde Vorstellungskraft und kreative Führung diese Woche in der Sackgasse bei den Brexit-Gesprächen voll zur Geltung gekommen sind.
Obwohl sie Margaret Thatcher ein wenig ähnelt, ist Ursula keine Tochter eines Ladenbesitzers. Sie wurde mit einem silbernen Euro-Löffel im Mund geboren. Ihr Vater, Ernst Albrecht, war Gründer der europäischen Bürokratie sowie hochrangiger westdeutscher Politiker, weshalb Ursula ihren Platz im Herzen der deutschen Politik erbte.
Aber jeder Dienst, den sie leitete, verwandelte sich in Staub. Sie wurde nach einer katastrophalen Amtszeit im Verteidigungsministerium aus dem Kabinett in Berlin ausgeschlossen, in der Soldaten mit Besenstielen für den dritten Weltkrieg übten, während riesige Summen an Berater verschwendet wurden.
Als gesalbte Nachfolgerin von Angela Merkel wurde sie zum Präsidenten der Europäischen Kommission ernannt – ein typisches Symptom für die Akzeptanz eines zweitklassigen Konformisten durch die EU.
Ursula von der Leyen hat ihre Kollegen und Regierungschefs nicht dazu gebracht, Dinge zu erledigen, sondern das Krisenmanagement der EU als Zeitlupensport geleitet.
Das Basteln mit dem Unwesentlichen ist zu einem Ersatz für das Ringen der wirtschaftlichen Stagnation, den Bevölkerungsrückgang und die Bekämpfung aggressiver Nachbarn wie Russland und der Türkei geworden.
That kind of policy paralysis is what led the once-mighty Ottoman Empire straddling the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa to be called the original ‘Sick Man of Europe’ in the 19th century.
Turkish sultans focused on everything except the essentials needed to saved their empire. The EU is doing much the same today.
Fear of a revived, competitive Britain lies behind Brussels’ constant attempts to lock us into its business-stifling regulations even after Brexit. But even if Britain succumbed to these demands — and as I write, Boris Johnson is insisting that is out of the question — the rest of the world won’t.
Canada, for example, hasn’t had to agree to a ‘level playing field’, obeying the Brussels rulebook at home.
And can you imagine either of the world’s economic superpowers, the U.S. or China, meekly accepting conditions such as those Europe has been trying to inflict on Britain?
Nor are up-and-coming powerhouses such as India going to tie their economic hands behind their backs to keep Brussels happy.
Margaret Thatcher loved the poem Waiting For The Barbarians, by the Greek writer Constantine Cavafy. It caught the mood of a decadent empire which used the barbarian threat as a distraction from internal problems.
For the EU, the end of Brexit will be the equivalent of the ‘bewilderment’ felt by the imperial elite in Cavafy’s poem at the news that the barbarians have moved away.
‘What’s going to happen to us without barbarians? Those people were a kind of solution.’
Britain was Europe’s great excuse for not getting things done. For decades we blocked ‘progress’ to a federal Europe. Then our protracted departure took up Brussels’ time and energy as the world moved on. Now, with Britain gone, what will hold Europe together in the face of self-inflicted wounds and hard realities?
Brexit was a form of life support for Europe’s moribund, log-jammed system.
Even if a deal is reached before the end of the transition period, Europe will still be left without excuses for its problems once Britain goes.
Can Brussels diagnose the EU’s ills accurately? More importantly, will it prescribe the right medicine?
Given its unimpressive record, that seems unlikely. Rather than candidly addressing its deep-seated ailments, Brussels is more concerned to proscribe unwelcome advice from dissenters and stick to the quack remedies that have only worsened its poor health.
The EU has truly become the sick man of Europe.
- Mark Almond is director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford.
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