The U.K lies in ruins. Ashes smoulder amongst the rubble of an NHS health clinic, the shelves of Waitrose have been picked dry, and the supply of imported prosecco has finally dried up. EU functionaries stand in Normandy and stare out over the English Channel (or rather la manche) grinning ear to ear. “We did warn them,” they gloat. Potato boats, listing with the burden of British migrants, desperately flee to the continent. Corvettes scramble to intercept the craft. “All refugees are welcome,” they sneer, “but those Brexiteers are simply not our sort.” As the eternal light of the British Empire slowly fades, so marks the dawn of a technocratic European Federation.
Or at least, you would be forgiven for having believed this story in November. Even pre-COVID, both continental and British media outlets foreshadowed the end of the UK as we know it. The Guardian seemed to relish the fact that Brexit restrictions would lead to problems for Boris Johnson’s vaccination plan. Similarly, John Major’s scaremongering about the end of Britain as a “great power” has been proven untrue as the UK takes the lead in global healthcare research. Employment, until the renewed lockdown restrictions, saw steady growth. NHS finances remained equally unchanged. Brexit did not serve as the “beginning of the destruction of…Western political civilization in its entirety” (in the words of European Council President Donald Tusk) and the “impossible deal” was proven to be, in fact, possible.
To quote the phrase referenced in over 53,000 articles over the course of the last decade (yes really) : “Despite Brexit”, the UK continued to thrive in the geopolitical landscape.
The European Union’s reluctant acceptance of a last-minute Brexit deal was ultimately predictable. The value of trade between the EU and the UK was simply too large to ignore. While the UK stood firm and planned for the inevitability that the highly ideological European Union would posture until the very end, the EU was simply unprepared to deal with a drop in both exports and funding. The European Commission operated on a system of coercion and intimidation which ultimately proved ineffective against a British administration that had already learned its lessons from the Lisbon and Maastricht treaties. The UK called the Commission’s bluff and a Canada-style deal was agreed upon.
While the EU declared the agreement a victory, behind the scenes there was a very different picture. European officials, having failed in their publicity stunt which blocked all outbound lorries at the border, erupted into infighting following the Brexit arrangements. European ideologues clamoured to make amendments to the deal because it did not sufficiently punish the British for their transgression.
The “European Project” does not allow, nor accept, the failure of its vision. Like a jilted lover, the EU has now stooped to increasingly underhanded and petty tactics to regain face and excuse its internal failures.
On January 29, the EU announced that it would be throttling the supply of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland, in violation of the Brexit agreement. This move was largely illustrative of the EU’s tattered reputation at home and its attempts to frustrate British efforts and save face in the vaccine race.
Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster put it lightly by describing the affairs as “an incredible act of hostility.” The complete failure of the European Union to put its own affairs in order, despite lecturing the UK on the grave epidemiological impacts of Brexit, has spurred a new angry loathing towards the UK. The ugly face of the European Union has been exposed, revealing the zeal and hypocrisy below.
In a program recorded for Dutch public broadcaster NPO 1, a young border officer shows off for the camera, righteously announcing his finest contraband seizure of the day. “Everything will be confiscated- welcome to the Brexit, sir. I’m sorry.”
Shamed for the cameras, a Polish HGV driver was charged with a crime… The crime of transporting home-packed cheese and ham sandwiches to the continent. Each sandwich is dissected, inspected, and sent for destruction. “Can you leave me the bread?” asked the Polish trucker, who was abruptly told: “no.” The officer quotes an obscure POAO law (products of an animal origin.) These controls are usually intended for the wholesale export of foodstuffs, but now seemingly include packed lunches . Journalist Angela Epstein described the affair as having “a whiff of point scoring”, which upon closer inspection resembles more of a stench.
The sleep-deprived and long-suffering truck driver’s sandwiches are illustrative of the EU’s new chip on its shoulder. In the wake of Brexit, Europe is left with nothing but scorn. It is continuing on its path of greater political integration, monetary union, and internal chaos. It has not reflected upon the reasons behind Brexit, nor considered a future in which greater political union is not the answer. The EU’s borderline criminal failings with vaccination, its strong-armed approach to Brexit, and failures at home are shifting the international spotlight back onto its fiercely ideological leaders. They have repeatedly proven themselves to be fearful, loathing, and petty.
The EU’s aggressive vaccine posturing merely marks a low note in the bitter relations to come. Brexit was supposed to serve as a warning to the rest of Europe, proving that betrayal would not go unpunished. Now, as the UK administers more vaccines in 3 days than France has done over the course of the whole pandemic, the European Union can do little but spit in the face of progress.
This new low for the EU is, in a way, bittersweet. Faced with medical brilliance, the EU can do nothing but attempt to throttle its progress. In the same vain; as our goods continue to flow to the continent, and British couples enjoy imported wine, the EU is helpless to halt progress. Instead it will stand by the roadway, with rage in its heart, rifling through ham and cheese sandwiches.