The EU’s record shows how it has turned hypocrisy into an art form

The EU’s record shows how it has turned hypocrisy into an art form

Hypocrisy on a small scale is inevitable in politics. It’s taken the European Union to turn it into an art form. It’s an essential skill in an institution constantly changing but always in the same mess. It predicts glowing futures to distract from sordid reality. It allows every minister to come out of Brussels meetings proclaiming victory in each non-decision. Every rule can be fiddled. Everyone can claim to be in charge. No one is.

They have a limit on public borrowing. When Germany and France exceed it, it doesn’t apply. They ban state aid for industry but the German Länder, the provincial banks, pour money into local industry. Refugees are supposed to be sent back to the country that first registered them. It refuses to take them. It claims to be spending properly but its accounts are always qualified.

So it goes on. In EU-speak hypocrisy is realpolitik so that’s what we should expect over Brexit. Michel Barnier – the supposed negotiator – is really their nay-sayer; a front man for the crowd spectacular that has to agree anything so it’s never clear who will actually decide. Easier just to say “no”,”non” or “nein” to every British proposal and then claim we’ve not made any proposals to be considered by Uncle Tom Juncker and all. They demanded an early application to leave then castigate us for giving notice too soon. They claim we don’t know what we want, then refuse it. Mrs Merkel gives a thumbs up “maybe” to Theresa’s proposals but then denies it. President Trump couldn’t do better.

The much-argued issue of the Irish border is claimed to shatter the peace agreement, though it’s nothing to do with it. They say no deal without an agreement means a border, which only they want to defend EU protectionism. They won’t, of course, offer to pay for it or man it. That’s up to us to protect their interests.

They claim they can do nothing which might infringe their “four freedoms” but they infringe most of them already. One is freedom of movement. Tell that to the refugees who’ve flooded in. Tell it to Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, all in the single market but all with immigration controls. There’s “freedom for services” but it’s incomplete because it would favour Britain. There’s no freedom to buy food in the cheapest market or support the agricultural exports of poor countries but they claim food prices will rise if we don’t buy them from fat farmers (preferably French).

Then there’s the freedom of businesses to move. That’s to allow big firms to make profits in the UK then claim to be registered in Ireland or Luxembourg to escape tax. To add insult to this injury, when the EU court decides that such tax-dodging is illegal, the money isn’t paid back to the UK from whom it was filched. It goes to the country which filched it.

None of their “freedoms” can be modified for us, though they’ve been relaxed for others like EFTA and Canada. They say we can’t negotiate trade agreements with other countries if we’re in the single market. Norway and Switzerland are and they can. If we leave the Common Fisheries Policy, they say they’ll keep out our fish. Iceland and Norway aren’t in it, but they gobble their fish.

With the EU, it’s always heads we lose, tails we can’t win. Whatever we want, they produce a rule that says it’s impossible, although they’ll want us to pay for it. If negotiations fail and there’s no deal, they’ll still claim their inflated charges even as they withdraw facilities, services, arrest warrants and access to public toilets in Brussels.

Dominic Raab has begun well by telling them “no deal, no dosh” – but with Theresa taking personal control, I’m getting nervous. Not only because she seems to believe their rubbish, but also because she’s now got to get some kind of a deal to survive, a weakness they’re sure to exploit to beat down her already weak demands. Toughen up Theresa!

The EU isn’t negotiating seriously. It’s playing us along and prolonging the agony in the hope that the May Government will fall, the Commons will screw everything up or the National Union of EU Lovers will get their referendum. With all that working for them, why do anything to help us? Recalcitrant Remainers will be perfectly happy to help them defeat Brexit and Brussels believes they’ll make us love Europe. Even if they don’t, a dose of humiliation will help us to learn EU-speak.