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Britain enters the ‘Greek fallacy’ phase of Brexit

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Two choices from Theresa May: take it, or leave it.
Theresa May is giving
Britain two choices: take it or leave it.

Reuters

  • British MPs are demanding that Theresa May’s Brexit
    deal be renegotiated or be put to a second referendum.
  • Greece tried to do exactly this during the Greek debt
    crisis, in 2015.
  • It didn’t work. The EU ignored it.
  • The EU isn’t a democracy. It’s a system of laws and
    rules that are designed to not be changed.
  • Absent a cast-iron offer to respect a second
    referendum, Britain’s choice is simple: take it or leave
    it.

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to put her Brexit
deal to parliament at the start of next month. Now that members
of parliament have seen the details of it, they are rebelling.
Many hate it. For the hardcore Leavers, it keeps Britain too
closely tied to Europe’s customs rules. For pro-Europe Remainers,
including moderate MPs in the opposition Labour party, the ties
aren’t close enough.

Many of them are
demanding the deal be renegotiated
. Some of
May’s own cabinet think she should go back to Brussels
and
get a new deal. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on November 19
that “You’ve
got to go back and negotiate something else
.”

Some MPs are pushing for a second Brexit referendum. Now that we
have more details on just how bad Brexit might be, they say, the
public should be given a chance to reconsider.

This is the “Greek fallacy” stage of Brexit.

“Brits [have] fallen for Greek fallacy that [a] domestic vote
gives you stronger position in Brussels.”

“Brits [have] fallen for Greek fallacy that [a] domestic vote
gives you stronger position in Brussels. Other countries have
voters too,”
tweeted Duncan Robinson
, the Brussels correspondent for the
Financial Times, in 2017, when he saw that Britain was becoming
delusional about its ability to negotiate with the EU.

Britain can have a second referendum. The Conservatives can
topple Theresa May. Labour could win a new general election, and
demand new talks.

It will make no difference.

The reality may well be that the EU won’t change a word.

No matter what happens, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will
likely say, that’s the deal. The Article 50 clock runs out on
March 29. Don’t forget to sign it on your way out the door.

The Greeks had five different votes — and the EU ignored them all

We know this because it has happened before. During the Greek
debt crisis, in which Greece threatened to default on its debts
to the EU and leave the eurozone, the country had four national
elections and one referendum, each one giving the country a
“mandate” to secure a better deal for Greece.

The
2015 referendum, on the single issue of whether Greece should
accept the EU’s bailout or not
, soundly rejected the deal.
Many thought that vote would force the EU to change course, or
forgive part of Greece’s debt.
I certainly believed that on the night of the triumphant Greek
vote in 2015
.

But Brussels didn’t blink.

The terms of the deal were not changed.

Greek is still paying off those debts today.

Greece’s former finance minister
Yanis Varoufakis has written about his experience
of trying
and failing to persuade the EU that a country with a gross
domestic product of only €175 billion ($200 billion), and zero
growth, isn’t able to pay debts of €368 billion ($420 billion).

Brussels doesn’t care about elections inside individual
countries. In fact, its officials work actively to suppress or
negate them, Varoufakis believes.

That’s not because they are inherently evil. It’s because of the
way the EU is structured.

There is no way to negotiate with a body that cannot change its
mind if just one of its 28 members won’t go along

The Union consists of 28 countries (Britain plus 27 others) who
all have their own democratic mandates. To pass any new laws or
enter into any trade deals is very difficult, with a
“super-qualified majority” of the EU council required to agree
any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

The EU, therefore, exists mostly as a system of rules, policies,
and laws that are incredibly difficult to be changed or broken.
There is no way to negotiate with a body that cannot change its
mind if just one of its 28 members won’t go along.

Since the UK referendum on the EU in 2016, many politicians have
taken the line that if only Britain is insistent enough,
the country will get its way with Brussels. Tory MP Jacob
Rees-Mogg, the arch-Leaver, suggested earlier this month that May
would be successful if she showed more “backbone.”

The danger is that the “Greek fallacy” becomes a “British
delusion”

She can show as much backbone as she wants. Guy Verhofstadt, the
European parliament’s Brexit coordinator rather underestimated
the matter when he said last week: “There
is not a lot of room for manoeuvre to say, ‘OK, let’s start
again
’.”

The danger is that the “Greek fallacy” becomes a “British
delusion
.”
I began arguing for a second referendum a year ago
. But the
EU has no interest, and little ability, to be bound by the
result.

Absent a cast-iron promise from all 27 EU members that they will
give the UK time to process the result of such a vote — and right
now that doesn’t exist — Britain’s choice may be a simple one:
Take it or leave it.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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