Written by Edward Langley
I’ll start by admitting I voted remain, like many other young people did. My feelings were although the EU is a complex beast of policy and bureaucracy that no one seems to quite understand fully (if at all), there was the sense that the EU represented diversity and togetherness. As Jeremy Clarkson put it, the EU is ‘a liberal, kind, balanced fulcrum in a mad world’. Sure, there are problems, but generally, I thought, it’s an institution that is probably for the better good overall. More importantly perhaps, Nigel Farage was on the other side. But since the historic result last June, the reason people dislike the EU has become increasingly clear.
According to an ORB poll carried out this month, 55% of Brits are now in favour of Brexit. Why could this be? What with the pound dropping sharply after the vote, the Prime Minister deciding that we are to leave the single market, and the grin that just can’t be wiped off ol’ Nige’s face. What happened to the forecasted ‘Bregret’? Even President Trump recently sided with the EU, confirming what his predecessor warned about Britain moving to the back of the queue (in spite of Michael Gove’s pathetic grovelling attempt to get him to say otherwise).
I can’t speak for others, but my best bet is it’s to do with the way the leaders of the EU have treated us since the vote. Now I get it, they don’t want to go easy on us and to give us too many concessions because it’s in their interests to prevent other countries from wanting to leave as well. If the UK crawls out of divorce negotiations like a twitching carcass, the EU can turn to the rest of the countries and say something along the vague lines of: ‘well folks, that’s what happens when you mess with us’.
But here’s a wild idea, how about instead of trying to make an example of the UK, the EU addresses the reasons they are so deeply unpopular in the first place. Euroscepticism isn’t solely a British thing. We may be the only country so far with the guts to do it but look at Le Pen in France, even in the EU stronghold of Germany the AFD is stoking up anger against Brussels. The EU is on shaky legs, and all it might take is one more country to leave until they’re done for. So if they want to survive, it might be worth a little rebranding of their image. And they should start from the top, with the leaders of their project.
Take Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. The man whose previous qualifications entail being Prime Minister of Luxembourg and turning the country into a tax haven. The man whose mere existence drove beloved actors Sir Michael Caine and John Cleese to vote for Brexit. The man who supposedly starts every day by drinking malt whiskey. Yes you read that right, Juncker’s alcohol problem is well reported. He apparently once downed three glasses of wine, three Sambucas and a Campari in the space of one hour. According to a former Tory Foreign Office Minister, Juncker’s drinking habits are so bad he dribbles during meetings: “He is a complete drunk. I regarded it as pointless talking to him after 12 o’clock because at times he seemed incapable of working, so drunk you couldn’t get any sense out of him. It is every bit as bad as people say. I have seen him so pissed that he was dribbling.” Juncker then denied his drinking problem to a French newspaper, where the journalist interviewing him noted that during the short lunch he saw off four glasses of champagne. These are worthy feats for a student perhaps, but not great if you’re leader of a political union.
Yet the worse part is what the man actually says. Juncker suffers from something called Tony Blair syndrome, a rare condition where unpopular politicians believe they are Jesus-like figures; sent from God and able to sway the public mood by preaching their truth. It’s arrogance, really, and if they were actually clever they would know they only repel people.
Juncker proclaimed earlier this month that if President Trump continued to lobby for other countries to leave the EU, he would himself retaliate by campaigning for Ohio’s independence from the United States. The comment was obviously made in jest (although it’s hard to tell since his face never seems to smile), but what’s even funnier is the mere suggestion that anyone in America would even know who he is, let alone listen to and care about his opinion.
Juncker even thought it would be necessary for him to poke his beak into the French election, lending his support to Emmanuel Macron after he won the first round of voting. As if this intervention would be a positive influence in any way.
The similarities between Trump and Brexit go much deeper than concerns about immigration. It’s really about an arrogant elite who feel they know best, and expect the people to listen to them. No one really knows what the EU does, but they act as if we can’t live without them. If the EU wants to live much longer, it should start by looking for a new leader.