EU leaders have every incentive to see Brexit Britain fail

It’s been dispiriting watching our feeble attempts to negotiate a Brexit where we get all the free trade we want, but can pick and choose who we let cross the channel.

The logic from Tory ministers seems to be “we buy lots of things from the EU so of course they’ll come to their senses and give us what we want. They’re not stupid are they?”

No, they’re not.

What our nation’s leading Brexiters fail to recognise is that by voting for Brexit, we’ve given our European neighbours every incentive to see us fail.

The Germans, the French, the Dutch, Swedes… they all believe in the EU, in open borders. In sharing sovereignty and responsibilities with their neighbours. Decades of hard negotiation, diplomacy and political reputations have been invested into building this institution up, and now they see Brexit as a real threat to that unity – they’re worried it will inspire eurosceptic fringe groups across the continent. So of course, now they’re hypervigilant against ‘contagion’.

It’s not in the EU’s interests to see a successful Britain post-Brexit. It’s basic politics to understand that EU leaders want to be able to point to us as a cautionary tale. ‘Don’t be arrogant like the English’, they’ll say.

Angela Merkel might feel some pain as German car exports suddenly drop as 10% tariffs kick in. It might cost a few hundred million euros, maybe a few billion. German CEOs will give her grief about it. Tory ministers hope this pain will be enough to make Merkel roll over but what they miss is that the pain to Germany of more countries leaving the EU is far, far more damaging. Germany’s ‘successful’ economy is built on exporting to weaker European economies (the Euro really helps with this).

Seen in these terms, trade barriers with Britain become a kind of investment in the EU project.

Our Tory masters only think in terms of private profits. And the EU project was always about more than money, so it’s no surprise that now the EU is sticking to its principles and saying it’s a hard Brexit or nothing.