By Vexen Crabtree 2017
After the UK's population voted for 'Brexit' from the EU in June 2016, the EU appointed Michel Barnier to lead a team of legal experts. A full year later, he complained that the UK had still not appointed a representative to talk to him1. The UK arrived late and unprepared for negotiations, and engaged in a series of embarrassing and harmful name-calling tactics, publicly insulting the very people they were trying to negotiate with2. A month into talks, and Mr Barnier is still trying to ascertain what the UK's stance is on most issues3. The UK government has been surprised by simple facts: It argued that Euratom's treaty only covers uranium even whilst its own scientific advisors cried out that hospitals need Euratom to source medical isotopes from Belgium, the Netherlands and France as the UK doesn't have the specialist nuclear reactors to make its own4. And as July 2017 drew to a close, the UK government finally thought to commission a year-long investigation on the economic and employment ramifications of losing EU workers. Most other responsible governments would have engaged in a fact-finding mission before making the most important decision made for 40 years. Most of the prominent "Brexiteers" have themselves exited the scene5, leaving a void filled with politicians who are pursuing a policy they don't think is good for their own country.
But before the people rise up against all this disorganisation, it is worth noting that it is not just Conservative politicians who are uninformed about the EU; in 2016 researchers found that the UK's citizens were the least knowledgeable about the EU6. After the vote, humorously, data released by Google shows that ... well, the Washington Post summarized it the best: "The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it". The UK has suffered from many high-profile long-term campaigns ran by sensationalist newspapers that have managed to misinform the masses on almost every aspect of EU involvement with the UK.
“Janan Ganesh describes the UK as "reluctant Europeans"7,8. The UK has voted "no" to EU proposals more than anyone else since 20099. We dislike learning about the EU, we don't keep up to date on EU news10, the most prolific newspapers on the EU don't have correspondents in Brussels, and the UK is the least educated of all EU nations on the very basic facts about the EU6. We are "marked by misguided assumptions and missed opportunities"8. UK citizens' complaints about the EU are mostly based on misinformation, such as complaints about "health tourism"11. The UK has suffered from having a dominant right-wing popular press which has served to actively misinform the populace about Europe, and about the EU in particular - the faction led by Rupert Murdoch has been particularly influential12. The eventual result was the UK referendum on 2016 Jun 23 which saw "Brexit" votes narrowly outnumber those of "Remain", leading to the UK withdrawal from the EU.”
When it came to the buildup to the negotiations with the EU over the UK's departure, the EU spent a very long time waiting for 'first contact'. They said the meetings could start in May, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May delayed arrival until June. Infamous photos circulated the Internet of politicians sat around a table whilst the UK's chair remained empty, with a caption of 'we are waiting'.
“Officials have bemoaned the fact that, one year on from the referendum, Britain has still not officially appointed a Brexit negotiator to be their main point of contact. The EU's man, French former Commissioner Michel Barnier, has been in place since July last year, valuable time spent consulting with the 27 national governments and building a formidable team around him.”
Nick Gutteridge (2017)1
In the absence of communication from the Conservative Government, our news outlets (unfortunately) remained the only loud voice to be heard. They reported on what our politicians were saying about their goals in negotiations. These unrealistic statements have been harmful to the UK's negotiating position.
“The pre-negotiation phase has been a disaster for the UK. The UK government first tried to divide the EU27, and then, when that didn´t work, set about deliberately breeding resentment and mistrust. [...] Its Cabinet ministers hectored, smeared and threatened the very people they are asking for help and concessions from. [...]
Then came the ill-fated “No Deal Better than Bad Deal” rhetoric. This had a disastrous effect on the UK's credibility, largely because it is demonstrably untrue. [...]
The UK government has acted as if the EU27 countries are yet to discover the internet, and don´t have access to UK news. The EU27, though, knows the UK has backed itself into a corner on so many issues that its positions are fundamentally incompatible with the positive outcomes it has said it will get. [...] Ruling out these things publicly, instead of explaining and managing expectations at home, shows the UK government is either willing to lie to its people or genuinely ignorant of the realities. This weakens any sympathetic voices for the UK.”
Steve Bullock (2017)2
UK Representative to the EU from 2010-2014
Article 50 (withdrawal from the EU) was invoked by the UK in March 2017, negotiations began in June, and by late July the EU's diplomat (Michel Barnier) was still complaining that there was no clear UK position on most issues3.
The UK's preparations for negotiations have been poor and disorganized and our "absurd" actions "served to make [the] UK look like it was not a serious negotiator"2. Steve Bullock, whose opinions I have been citing, was the UK's official negotiator and UK Representative to the EU from 2010-2014 and has also worked for the European Commission. He thinks that this level of disorganisation and the failure to prepare for negotiations (including fact-gathering) is due to the fact that the government is planning to walk away without a deal2. This would make sense of the ridiculous "No Deal Better than Bad Deal" slogan. John Crace says simply: "the plan was to be unprepared"3.
Most of the prominent "Brexiteers" have themselves exited the scene (including both of Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy advisors, who authored her speech on Brexit)5. All of these issues tell us that we don't have a caste of politicians who are capable of forging a post-Brexit Britain, and leaves us with Vince Cable's comment, as leader of the Liberal Democrats (who campaign for the UK to Remain in the EU):
“We need an exit ... from Brexit.”
Radioactive isotopes are required for cancer treatments and medical body scanners; they are produced only by specialist nuclear reactors. Not many countries have them, and the isotopes in involved do not last very long. Tc-99m has a half-life of just six hours and it is made from molybdenum 99, which also has a short half-life of 66 hours. The supply chain is delicate and must operate efficiently and with good international coordination. Therefore, Euratom organizes the storage and transport of these commodities. Not many people need pointing out that Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community) is a part of the EU.
But the UK government Brexit's team doesn't have a scientific advisor, despite the urgent advice of its own Commons Science and Technology Committee4. It also doesn't have a representative from the Health Department, as recommended by its own Commons Health Committee4. And when the Financial Times in February 2017 highlighted that leaving the EU would entail supply problems for medical equipment, and nuclear industry experts sounded the same warnings, the government doesn't seem to have paid much attention. Even in July 2017, the government said it doesn't "envisage problems"4 and, apparently not understanding the issues very well, it also argued (wrongly) that Euratom only deals with uranium. It turns out that all of the UK's medical isotopes come through Euratom from Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Has the UK government gone rogue and started secretly building new specialist nuclear reactors? Given that they seem surprised by some of their uses, the answer seems to be: unlikely.
“Although it may be possible for the UK to remain within existing arrangements, it will be exceptionally complicated and the UK's position will inevitably be weakened. Crucially, the government has offered no real clarity on how any agreement might be achieved. The position paper on Euratom published by the government in July 2017 contained little detail even on nuclear power and did not mention medical isotopes.”
Martin McKee, prof. (2017)4
And to continue with a note of unpleasantness, even Dominic Cummings, the initial campaign director of Vote Leave, said that politicians who support leaving Euratom are "morons"4.
Right on cue, as I was collecting notes to create this web page, the UK's government's Home Secretary (Amber Rudd) commissioned a major investigation and analysis of the role of EU citizens in Britain. For the first time. That's right - one year after asking the populace to vote on leaving the EU, the UK government has now begun the its important piece of information-gathering on the EU. The detail that is to be obtained is essential for the decision-making process, so that plans can be made to avoid a "cliff edge" for employers. Too late! The decision was made year ago to leave the EU. Not only that, but the investigation is important enough that it will run for one year from now. There is widespread condemnation, criticism and confusion from all quarters, that this basic research was not part of the initial preparations when deliberating over EU membership.
The investigation will cover14:
“Denis MacShane, a former Labour Europe minister, says there may be a simple explanation of why Downing Street missed the celebrations in Berlin and why other EU leaders are suspicious of Mr Cameron: They read our papers and we don't read theirs.”
George Parker and Quentin Peel (2013)10 in The Financial Times
Of all EU countries, it is the UK's citizens who are the least knowledgeable about the EU (the most well-informed are those in Slovenia, Luxembourg and Croatia)6. Humorously, data released by Google shows that ... well, the Washington Post's article on it summarized it the best: "The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it" (2016 Jun 24).
Several of the campaigns against the EU in the referendum on Brexit have unravelled, and none of the key positive agendas are being adhered to. In a truly shocking revelation, the Leave campaign Director Dominic Cummings admits that the public voted to exit the EU as a result of lies and misinformation.
“Buried in a 19,800 word Spectator essay written by former online editor and Vote Leave director Dominic Cummings is an admission: The Brexit referendum was won by lying to the public. [...] There is the admission that the NHS wouldn´t really take back our £350 million EU fee, and that immigration wouldn't really be capped, and that standards of living wouldn´t really change if we left the EU. All of which are matters that the general public voted on, and all are incorrect.”
In case the UK governments needs any other advice on areas to investigate, here's a partial list of the benefits of EU membership:
Current edition: 2017 Jul 28
Parent page: United Kingdom: National Successes and Social Failures
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper..
The Daily Express. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Right-wing newspaper..
Brown, Gordon. Prime Minister of the UK 2007-2010 for the Labour Party.
(2016) Britain: Leading, Not Leaving: The Patriotic Case for Remaining in Europe. E-book. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Deerpark Press, Selkirk, UK.
The Financial Times
(2013) Britain and the EU: In or Out?. E-book. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Drawn from articles originally published in the Financial Times between 1975 and March 2013.