I’ve argued for years that Britain should draw out the Brexit process as long as possible. Every week, the EU weakens. Every week, warnings about Brexit fade.

But this week has me wondering if I was wrong. There seems to be quite a risk to remaining inside the EU.

Take for example the requirement to be part of EU policy until Brexit. European leaders have come up with all sorts of hare-brained schemes lately. It’s as if they’re testing the British commitment to comply with wacky EU law until we leave.

The EU is looking to introduce all sorts of benefits such as maternity leave for gig-economy workers, for example. According to the European Commission, 40% of EU citizens have irregular employment. That leaves them unprotected. The Financial Times explains the logic:

“EU policymakers have targeted boosting employee rights to fight back against Eurosceptic populists who have made inroads in the continent’s biggest economies such as Italy, which suffers from high levels of youth unemployment and stagnant living standards.”

This is so painfully backwards, it’s hilarious. It’s a prime example of what a British MEP recently called “anti-logic” in the European Parliament.

The gig economy is the best hope the unemployed have of getting a job, an income, and developing the skills needed for full employment. It works precisely because it is not tied up in the ridiculous labour regulations and benefits of the EU. Introducing those costs will destroy the gig economy, destroying jobs, income and careers. It will worsen youth unemployment.

The EU is fully aware of the disastrous consequences of its planned regulation of the gig-economy. That’s why ensuring Britain follows the same terrible rules is so high on the agenda. Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were pressured into ensuring the EU there would be no “race to the bottom” on labour law, not to mention regulation generally.

The EU is also losing the plot over its defence.

An advisor to the EU told a UK audience that the UK is too small to “take back control” over its own policies such as defence:

“Because size matters and the UK is a small country in the world. This is the aspect which so jarred the whole Brexit debate, in my view a realisation of how small we all are. How small and decreasingly influential we will be and only by acting together we can gain control.”

This is utter nincompoopery. Size has no impact on your ability to gain control over your domestic policy. Joining others reduces your control over your own policy. And makes you responsible for their actions.

And as for having an impact, the statement is even more stupid. Take a look at Britain’s foreign policy meddling and I’d say it’s far too big, not too small. We’re defending Europe’s borders all over the bloody place.

In 2015, I toured Europe as part of the Free Market Road Show. Most of the dozens of countries I visited have British troops stationed in them. And in Cyprus, we drove a three-hour detour to cross at a British border control because the Cypriot one wasn’t equipped to deal with EU identification cards.

But protecting Europe has become dangerous thanks to their decision to meddle in places like Syria. Do we want to be held responsible for EU foreign policy? Do you want British lives on the front lines of an EU controlled military? The EU is steadily encroaching on Russia’s buffer states. That bodes very ill for future relations. Not that they’re doing terribly well at the moment anyway…

Of course, the EU’s institutions are extraordinarily dysfunctional themselves. Guy Verhofstadt recently told Jean-Claude Junker that he had done something unique by double-promoting his former Chief of Staff to one of the most powerful positions in the EU: He has united the entire Parliament against him.

The consequences of such a move in the EU Parliament? Nothing.

My favourite example of EU dysfunctionality highlights the nature of the institution perfectly. A few years ago, a German news organisation caught wind of a particular rort going on inside the EU Parliament. MEPs can collect extra pay by working on weekends. They just have to clock in with their ID.

For some strange reason, a long line of MEPs with suitcases used to form at the check-in desk on Saturday mornings. After recording themselves present, the MEPs would take a coffee break at the local train station, their suitcase in tow, and return on Monday morning…

The German reporters managed to get a camera into the Parliament on some pretence on a Saturday morning. They rounded a corner to find the queue of politicians with their suitcases waiting to check-in. The politicians did a massive double take, realised they’d been caught red handed, and promptly ran for it. You can imagine the chaos that ensued with all those suitcases in a narrow corridor. One MEP from the German Greens Party ran straight into a wall in her attempt to escape. She got stuck in the lift with the camera crew, trying to hide the bruise.

It’s not all fun and games though. There’s the financial burden of the EU too. It’s been living off British money for a very long time, and could be in serous financial trouble without that money. Where will the EU turn to for funding?

Already, the nations are bickering. Spain is set to lose vast amounts of EU financial support. And the northern European nations have realised the bill will come due if the EU doesn’t shrink its spending. New taxes are in the offing. Taxes British industry won’t be subjected to. Unless they get passed soon and Britain agrees to maintain them, as with labour regulation.

The immigration crisis the EU faces is another blunder Britain only appears to have escaped. But when I met Syrians lunging at train stations in Austria in 2016, they all had the UK in mind as their final destination. After all, their English was often fluent. And rather posh.

It’s ironic to see the EU lecturing Britain on immigration when their own policies destroyed freedom of movement inside the Schengen area and brought an anti-EU government to power in Italy.

The common currency is another EU feature that’s proving painful for Britain. Even if the UK escaped the curse of the Euro, its economic affect still hurts. The currency is destroying the economies of many of Britain’s trading partners. Especially Italy. It also keeps Germany artificially competitive against UK exports.

Brexit won’t change that. But it will open up other trade routes to make up for Southern Europe’s economic prison.

A hard Brexit after the transition period

It’s not all bad news though. A slow and tedious Brexit is still playing out in Britain’s favour in many ways. For example, the German version of the chamber of commerce has looked into the costs of losing British trade. It’s urging the EU to take a more productive approach to the negotiations. It turns out that EU politicians are out of touch with their constituents. Who’d’ve thought!

The same argument is being made in Italy, but by the new political leaders. They want the EU to stop trying to punish Britain and instead foster trade relations. The leading candidate to become Italy’s next PM has his political stronghold in the north of Italy, where industry has plenty of ties to British trade.

The question is whether the EU embraces its coming weakness with a change of policy and heart. Will it bend to Italian demands to treat Britain decently, and shrink to fit its capabilities? Or will punishing Britain continue alongside EU expansion?

Giving the EU as much time as possible to change for the better is the best strategy for Brexit and Britain. We can always leave if things become too absurd on the continent. And the more absurd, the more obvious the benefits of Brexit, encouraging a departure that meets the approval of the British electorate.

Until next time,

Nick Hubble,
Capital & Conflict