This article was written by Sune Auken
It is not recognized often enough what a great and patriotic service #FBPE does for the international status of the United Kingdom.
Observing the Brexit process from an EU27-perspective has been quite frustrating. I sometimes stop and wonder to what extent British politicians and debaters are able to see themselves from the outside. Do they reflect on the fact, that we see them? Moreover, does it occur to them that we exist as non-Brits with fully legitimate interests in our own right? Sometimes I call this “Anglonormativity”, defined as “The explicit or implied assumption that people from English speaking countries matter more than others; and that others should think of English speakers first and themselves second; because they are less real and important people”.
The abhorrent debate over the Irish border has been particularly vexing in this regard. The basic problem is not particularly hard to grasp, yet it is recurrently obfuscated through ignorance, negligence, selfishness, or even plain malice.
If the UK leaves the EU, the Irish Border is an external border for the EU. Relinquishing control of it, would amount to giving up control of what happens in all EU-territory. If the UK establishes a trade deal with the US that lowers safety standards, food standards, worker’s rights, environmental standards´ etc. etc. then sub-standard products can then be imported with impunity from the UK to the EU. In other words: An open border with a deregulated market dominated by the US means giving up even a pretense to control. It will lower safety standards, food standards, worker’s rights, environmental standards´ etc. within the EU.
Also, it means that in a situation where control with immigration is key to maintaining the EU—and is also the recurrent attack point by budding or roaring fascist movements within and outside the EU—the union would be without control of one of its outer borders. Therefore, not only is it fair for the EU to stand firm with Ireland on the issue of the Irish border, it is a case of life-or-death for the union.
However, in the UK-debate the question is frequently treated as if it was a point where the Irish could just be a little more flexible and all would be fine, or simply seen as a non-problem weaponized by the EU against the UK. Moreover, the UK leadership has yet to come up with a workable solution; indeed, the UK-leaders have yet to prove themselves marginally trustworthy on this point.
The situation is, quite obviously, infuriating. I cannot fathom how Michel Barnier keeps his cool, but I guess that’s why it’s him, not me, who conducts these negotiations.
Back to #FBPE. Given the untrustworthy, belligerent, haughty, and bullheaded course presented by the UK government and much of the UK media, the loss of goodwill is catastrophic given that the UK is going to need all the friends it can get if it leaves the EU, and needs to reestablish lost trust, if it stays. Given the pan-European character of the hashtag, #FBPE connects remainers in the UK with their European allies thus making it evident, in a way that is not visible in the political landscape, that there is much sympathy towards the EU in the UK despite the belligerent attitude displayed in official political life.
A well-known figure among remainers, Ian Dunt, just tweeted “It’ll take years for this country to rebuild its reputation. We look like children.” This is true, of course. However, all the constructive contacts established through #FBPE, as well as the contacts between UK-remainers and their friends and allies on the continent, mean that there is something on which to rebuild the UK’s reputation. Because it is broadly known in Europe that the UK-population also contains many engaged, friendly, and intelligent people who have not—by a long shot—looked like petulant children in the process. Right now that’s one of the best gifts the international standing of the UK can get. A veritable display of well-understood patriotism—and #FBPE contributes heavily to it.
We’d like to thank the maker of the cartoons we posted in this article. Please visit his website: skzcartoons.co.uk