Lots to report this week. The war in Ukraine has seen a relative lull, with Russian forces withdrawing from the north of the country, refueling and resupplying before beginning an alleged eastward push.
Lots to report this week. The war in Ukraine has seen a relative lull, with Russian forces withdrawing from the north of the country, refueling and resupplying before beginning an alleged eastward push. Civilians were told to flee in anticipation. This did not prevent Russian troops from committing new war crimes. Most notable was the ruthless Bucha massacre northwest of kyiv, but missile attacks against civilians the targets also killed dozens of people.
More generally, the European Commission has played little role in the European response to the conflict in Ukraine. Aid to Ukraine has instead come from individual states, and with the exception of Poland and more recently the Czech Republic, notably from non-EU states, including the UK. The EU is in an abyss. Without its own military capability, its own common foreign policy means little, but any sustained attempt to form an EU army entails the end of national autonomy and will meet resistance from many member states.
Union without unity
The EU remains grumpy. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have decided stop importing Russian gas, putting bigger nations like Germany to shame. By contrast, the past weekend saw a substantial victory for Hungarian President Victor Orban, who won re-election despite opposition politicians unifying around a single candidate. Orban is Putin’s latest European ally and, together with Poland, has launched a series of challenges to the supremacy of the European Court of Justice.
The latest in this saga came on Wednesday, when Poland’s finance minister vetoed an otherwise unanimous decision by other member states to impose a minimum corporate tax rate of 15% across the bloc. Commentators suspect that this decision is linked to the Commission’s decision to withhold funds from Poland.
The UK is hardly unscathed, however. Inflationary pressures on the cost of living have been exacerbated by the Chancellor’s recent budget – and matters have not been helped by revelations about his wife’s homeless status. Extinction Rebellion protesters created fuel shortages blocking access to plants.
Some elements of the economy, however, defied the naysayers – manufacturing indices place the British increasing manufacturer confidence than their eurozone counterparts. Great Britain has also, together with Estonia, been designated as a new hub for military technology development by NATO.
Briefings editor Robert Tombs was on Radio 4 at 9.30pm on Sunday morning, discussing the day’s news. He also recently wrote an article in the The telegraph of the day discuss the French election and the worrying implications it has for the French political system. Frequent Information sessions Contributor Gwythian Prins was also on the BBC World Service on Saturday from 6.15am to 8.30am.
Ukraine Update No 1 (April 9, 2022), by Briefings for Britain
We intend to publish updates from former soldier and diplomat Adrian Hill, one of our regular correspondents.
“Sanctions are all good and should remain for the foreseeable future, but this crisis will be resolved on the battlefield. There remains a danger that despite NATO stepping back to avoid a direct confrontation with Russian forces, Russian misconduct or wrongdoing will lead to a situation where NATO will inevitably have to respond.
UKICE Divergence Tracker, by Briefings for Britain
This is the UK’s third edition in an evolving Europe’s UK-EU Regulatory Divergence Tracker, covering 27 divergence cases since December 2021. We thought that it would be useful to register it on the BfB site to follow how Brexit is being implemented. . This report contains links to the first and second reports.
“In terms of passive divergence, the EU has unveiled plans for four major reforms around the themes of ‘digital sovereignty’ and ‘strategic autonomy’… More fundamentally, the EU’s plans reflect a significant desire to impose its regulatory weight on big and emerging technologies. – which raises an important strategic question for the UK as to whether to align or deviate via its own future regulation.
EU rhetoric begging belief
Amid a lingering crisis in the East, Brussels continues its crusade against Brexit.
Boris Johnson was heavily criticized a few weeks ago for an arguably misguided comparison between Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion and the UK’s popular vote for Brexit. It is true that EU leaders and remaining die-hards have engaged in little war crimes and massacres in their fight against this democratic outcome. Johnson was right, however, to compare the claim to national autonomy – and therefore democracy – that the two struggles represent.
Johnson’s rhetoric responds to the EU’s own language, which has always been (and remains) more consistently hostile. For some, everything for Brexit Britain is an embarrassment. Such sentiment was at the root of the conviction expressed last year by Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister, Jean Castex: Britain had to be punished so that other EU nations would see that leaving was not not an option.
More recently, in this vein, EU Finance Commissioner Mairead McGuiness compared reliance on extra-EU (i.e. UK) financial services to dependence on Russian gas. This comparison is offensive and smacks of desperation. The European Commission has largely failed to relocate euro clearing services to the EU. His most recent plans have caused a substantial pushback from the industry, with industry bodies warning that the EU will become a significantly less attractive business destination if it goes ahead.
Others in the Commission share these sentiments. BT has been awarded a major contract by the European Commission for the handling of confidential information, which has been criticized (anonymously) by other Commission officials. Britain in particular is labeled as a country with “a history of privacy abuse”, and the deal is criticized for vindicating those who voted for Brexit.
Finally, the German leaders are also guilty. President Frank-Walter Steinmeyer accused British voters of “fascination with authoritarians” while simultaneously pushing Nordstream 2 and closer cooperation with Putin. Germany’s policies here have directly caused the crisis. As Wolfgang Münchau of EuroIntelligence put it, Germany and Italy have together been “the financial sponsor of Russian war crimes”.
Overall, the language of EU leaders has consistently prioritized punishing Britain over the possibility of a profitable future relationship. Only if this attitude fundamentally changes can its priorities be properly aligned to deal with the real threats to Western values.
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in national news.
The discussion is also continuing on Facebook.
How you can help
There’s a lot about Britain’s relationship with Europe that remains to be determined. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Keep sending them links to our stories, especially on topics relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, stories about the threat to UK agriculture. You can also make an appointment to speak with them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want Britain after Brexit to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in his post-election speech, now is also the time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our articles and share links to our great content to help others understand how leaving the EU benefits the UK economy and our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively on the long-term impact of Brexit.
A Cambridge PhD student
Economist, Center for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge