G20, Brexit, And The Villa D’Este

G20 China 2016

It’s a busy time for world leaders, especially those from European nations. Not only has the annual G20 summit beckoned, but immediately prior was a special private meeting – a sort of European equivalent of Davos – organised by the European think tank, Ambrosetti.

While other world leaders were gathering in the Chinese resort of Hangzhou…


…Merkel, Hollande, and the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, among others, were ensconced at the rather fabulous Villa d’Este, on the shores of Italy’s stunning Lake Como.

Villa-dEste, Lake Como

Hmmm, nice gardens!

It’s unlikely there was much time for these European elites to relish the delights around them, given that two days later they were off to the G20, and yet another sumptuous display, this time provided by China’s Xi Jinping. But a lot can be discussed in two days and without doubt the chief topic was Britain’s stab-in-the-European-back, known colloquially as ‘Brexit’.

Britain wants to severely restrict the free movement of people into the country while continuing to trade freely with its European neighbours. To put it another way: Britain wants to have its cake and eat it. European leaders are determined that’s not going to happen. After all, rules are rules and ‘free movement across borders’ was one of the prime directives (to coin a phrase from the sci-fi series, ‘Star Trek’) of the Union right from the start. And, as we all know from ‘Star Trek’, a prime directive can never be broken. In this particular case it would undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the European Union.

Is it possible that this is exactly what Britain and the United States would like to see happen? While there’s no solid evidence, there are indications of the possibility. Call this writer an old conspiracy theorist if you like, but the whole ‘Brexit’ thing evolved just a little too smoothly to be totally unplanned:

The lack-lustre campaign of the ‘Remain’ group, headed by prime minister Cameron; Cameron’s super-quick exit after the result was announced; the ‘Leave’ campaign’s top man, Boris Johnson, ducking out of the prime minister’s job just minutes before he was due to stand; a long list of would-be Tory prime ministers conveniently fading away to leave Theresa May as the only candidate for the job; politician Liam Fox, once ousted from the government for serious indiscretions and the foremost player in the ‘Atlantic Bridge’ think tank that linked top Tory politicians with the U.S. Tea Party, brought back into government as (of all things!) Minister for International Trade; the known fact that the referendum was declared by Cameron to be “only advisory”; Theresa May vetoing any parliamentary debate on the issue; Barack Obama telling Britain they’d be ‘at the back of the queue’ if they left the E.U., but now repudiating that by stating:

“I’ve committed to Theresa that we will consult closely with her as she and her government move forward on Brexit negotiations to make sure we don’t see adverse effects in our trading and commercial relationship. Obviously there is an enormous amount of trade that already takes place … That is not going to stop. And we are going to do everything we can to make sure the consequences of the decision don’t end up unravelling what is already a very strong and robust economic relationship…” [1]

It all rather smacks of pre-planning.

“The British People have spoken,” and, “Brexit means Brexit,” are two mantras so often repeated by senior U.K. politicians of late that one wonders if they’re having trouble convincing themselves. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that the British people certainly didn’t speak with one voice on the subject, were grossly misled due to a series of downright lies by the ‘Leave’ campaigners led by Boris Johnson (now elevated by May to Foreign Secretary!), and only won the day by one and a quarter million votes out of a total of thirty-three million five hundred and fifty-one thousand nine hundred and eighty-three – or, 3.8%.

Obama is still pushing to complete his pet projects, the secretive and corporate-friendly ‘trade’ agreements he’s spent the last two years persuading world leaders to accept. He’s finding European leaders hard going on the subject. As one, they’re formidable. Split up, they’d likely prove easier to persuade. Of course, Obama’s not stupid and knows he won’t be on the world throne by the time that split might occur, but no doubt his backers have already primed his successor on the subject. After all, they’ve gone to enough trouble to ensure, via their media outlets, that Donald Trump won’t be that person.

Obama still hopes for European success before he leaves office. The continuation of his quote above, reads:

…“But first things first. The first task is figuring out what Brexit means with respect to Europe. And our first task is making sure we go forward on TTIP negotiations in which we have already invested a lot of time and effort.”

And that was surely the second most important topic under discussion by Merkel, Hollande, and the other European politicians and business leaders at Villa D’Este, on the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Italy.

[1] “Theresa May joins G20 summit to face Brexit warnings from US and Japan” Guardian, September 4th 2016

3 Replies to “G20, Brexit, And The Villa D’Este”

  1. Re Twilight’s linked articles, it occurred to me recently to wonder which passport would be issued at the present time: the EU United Kingdom or the old British passport. I imagine they would wait to deal with that until terms of Article 50 are agreed upon and invoked. I recall passports were valid for ten years, so that ought to give them time to sort it …

    Of course, the pesky matter of free movement of people is at least as hot a potato as the economic ramifications, especially politically.

  2. Twilight – thanks for the link, it was an interesting read and Usherwood made many good points. My only disagreement was over the result of any future re-run of the referendum. Many Brits will by now have realised they were conned by the ‘Leave’ campaign and I think sufficient could be swayed to swing a vote towards remaining in the E.U.. However, it’s academic as a re-run isn’t going to happen.
    I believe the man to watch in all this is Liam Fox. He’s been made Minister for International Trade, and has already written to Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) telling him to keep his, and his department’s, noses out of foreign business affairs. That’s gone down like a lead balloon in the Foreign Office and May realises she has a power struggle on her hands. Not the last, I’m sure.
    Fox has had an interesting(!) political career. He’s worth researching.

    Sabina – The U.K. passport simply has ‘European Union’ added above, ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ so I suppose they’ll just delete the former when the time is right. It’ll be at least two years before that happens, possibly longer if May procrastinates over invoking Article 50.

    Free movement is a cornerstone of the E.U.. To allow Britain latitude on that would open the door to the European far-right parties gaining massive ground politically and could spell the end of the Union. I believe Europe should take the stance that ‘OUT’ means ‘OUT’, which could force May into another referendum. As Usherwood wrote: “Things can always get worse.”
    I think they probably will.

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