An Austrian message to Britain: act fair, otherwise we will try to wreck you
By Dieter Knoflach
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” (Lord John Acton)
Media reports claimed that 51.9% of British voters want to leave the European Union. I do not necessarily think so. According to my criteria of Referendum-Validity there are serious reasons why the Brexit-Referendum should be regarded as invalid:
Six important topics in context with Brexit and/or their consequences seem to have been undebated or underdebated in the so-called Brexit-Campaign:
First: the excessive a la carte-treatment. Britain as a big power abused her power to negotiate special conditions in the context of her EU-membership, which smaller states with less power were not able to reach in the normal negotiation process. This privileged position and bonus of Britain meant a damage for all the other countries who had to pay for Britain´s privileges. If Britain picks the cherries, then there are no cherries left for the other states although they contributed. Michel Rocard (French Socialist party) wrote a Le Monde-article in 2014 dealing with this topic: “A French message to Britain: get out of Europa before you wreck it” The demand/wish of Merkel and others that there shall be no British cherry picking in the future any more, is not satisfying to me, but compensation for British cherry picking in the past would be.
Second: the Russia-Sanctions-damage. Britain was the only EU-member-state involved in the Budapest memorandum of 1994, in which Britain, the USA and Russia guaranteed the borders of Ukraine. Because of her involvement in the Budapest Memorandum Britain was the driving force behind the EU-Russia-sanctions, and – roughly speaking - 20 of the EU-member-states seemed to have followed reluctantly, among them Austria. If in a marriage the woman gives up her university studies, follows the man, moves to the city, where her husband has the best job offer, supports his career, then the man cannot get divorced without compensation for the female support during the partnership. In private divorce law it plays an important role who was the driving force and who followed reluctantly; and the same principle should also be applied in the case of state divorce law.
Third: the conditionally unjust British-Irish border. In 1919, 1921 and 1949 the Irish separation was finished with a border drawing that was dominated by powerful Britain and in which the small state of Ireland had a much weaker position. According to my criteria for state division reciprocity would have been fair: if the border is drawn in a way that the number of pro-British protestants in Ireland is approximately the same as the number of pro-Irish catholics in British Northern Ireland, then this can be regarded a fair division. But this was not the case. As an unconventional catholic and as a member of a small state I support up to a certain extent the position of some Northern-Irish catholics who demand to redraw the borders or to have a referendum concerning reunification with Ireland after Brexit, although of course minority rights in many cases are a satisfying form of the self-determination of peoples as enshrined in the UN Charta.
Fourth: public relations-vulnerability in connection with World War II. An uncle and an aunt of mine (they were little children, not Nazis) were killed because of British/Allied bombardments in Eastern Germany in 1945 / the end of the war when Nazi Germany was already technically knocked out. Many historians and experts in international law regard the Dresden-style bombardments as war crimes, as intentional killing of civilians (Churchill himself called it “terror”). I did not burn-mark Britain as a state getting through with war crimes one single time in the last 50 years of my life, but the specific way of Brexiting (not Brexiting as such) that seems to develop now doesn´t leave another choice to me than to consider changing my position. A way of Brexiting which lacks solidarity could cause the rise of new parties in continental Europe with conditional anti-British attitude, and my party could be one of them.
Fifth: Britain´s permanent seat in the UN-security council. It constitutes a privilege which five big powers grabbed in an exceptional situation. The wish to have a common European UN-SCR-permanent seat is a long-time multi-party-position of Austrian foreign policy.
Sixth: my offensive proposals for the solution of the migration crisis were absolutely undebated in the Brexit-Campaign. According to the terminology of Robert Kagan Britain is from Mars. Britain is the most experienced EU-member-state when war-faring is concerned. And therefore Britain is not expendable.
All this six topics played a far too weak role in the Brexit-debate, or no role at all, so that the Brexit Referendum can be regarded as invalid.
If it were up to me, Britain has three options:
a) Annulment of the Brexit-referendum, and solidarity-showing membership without the abuse of big-power-status.
b) A second referendum which includes the undebated topics, and a solidarity-showing membership.
c) A Brexit with compensations for all the damages Britain has done to the other EU-member-states, especially in financing the British excessive a-la-carte-membership-privilege (Britain was the state with most opt-outs and special conditions) and the Russia-sanctions-damages for the states that followed reluctantly.
Divorce wars can not only occur in private divorces, but also in state divorces if the Brexiting state brexits in an immoral way. It´s up to Britain whether she decides to be Ugly Britain or Great Britain. But in the case of ugly Brexit shitstorms and anti-British sentiment in continental Europe are likely. I will not leave British cherry-picking without compensations uncriticized.
Dieter Knoflach, Vienna, Austria, leader of the “realpolitische Sozialdemokraten” (Social democrats with means of Realpolitik).
P.S.: I know that my English is not perfect, but I bet it still is far better than the German of Cameron, Johnson, Farage or Corbyn.
P.S.2: Maybe I was hacked or bugged. I started writing this text and polishing my English and making speech practices two days before Boris Johnson (his career rests partly on his book “The Churchill factor”) decided not to run for Tory leadership. Maybe illegally gathered info, that his darling Churchill will be criticized, was the real reason for Johnsons surprising decision or the real reason why his former supporters stopped supporting him.