Richard North, 22/04/2019  

In a scarcely reported interview, only fragments of which are reaching the English language media, we see Jean-Claude Juncker urging the UK "not to waste time" in preparing for Brexit.

But what was most interesting was his comment that, whatever transpires, the exit will have negative consequences, warning that there will be no single market-based solution. "As I see it", he added, "the British side bears a hundred percent of the responsibility for this".

Juncker also warns that the EU cannot keep on putting off the withdrawal date indefinitely. Unsurprisingly, he believes that the best solution would be for the British to adopt the Withdrawal Agreement during the extra time that has been agreed, but he is clearly not optimistic.

In his view, the UK still runs the risk of leaving the EU without a deal, and the institutions and Member States are continuing to make preparations for that eventuality. They are not alone. We are told that British companies are already making plans to stockpile for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. They are concerned that the timing could affect the Christmas market, a period when many companies make the bulk of their profits.

The significance of Juncker's comments is that the gloves are coming off. In what may be a sign of things to come, there is no attempt at diplomacy when it comes to apportioning blame. The UK is firmly in the frame, with the EU distancing itself from the outcome.

I have already speculated that this might happen, with the EU gradually ramping up its propaganda to put the responsibility for a no-deal Brexit firmly in the UK's camp. This would be in preparation for cutting the UK adrift on 31 October, when the European Council refuses to grant another Article 50 extension.

It needs no skill in reading between the lines, therefore, to adduce that the UK government in particular – and the nation in general – needs to be focusing on the only thing left which can stave off either a no-deal Brexit or a revocation. That is, as Juncker says, adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement, which will require parliamentary ratification some time before the end of October.

Mrs May, apparently, is still pinning her hopes on an accord with Labour, and remains hopeful that she can pull off a deal in time to avoid holding "unwanted" European elections on 23 May.

But, if the prime minister is concentrating on the main event, she must be one of the few people in the country who is. The bulk of the electorate, with the active encouragement of the legacy media, is expending its energies on the political equivalent of a second childhood, as it obsesses over the runners in those elections.

That gives rise to a typically mad intervention from Liam Fox who is seriously asserting that there will be adverse consequences if the EU "forces" the UK to hold European elections.

Willing as I am to attribute all sorts of evils to the European Union, in fairness one cannot reasonably argue that the UK fulfilling its treaty obligations equates to being forced to do anything by the EU. But then, there is "reasonable" and there is Mr Fox. The two have never been known to impact on each other.

However, there is a small point in what Fox has to say, in that he predicts that the EU could end up with "50 angry and disruptive MEPs" when the parliament reconvenes in July. He is doubtless exaggerating but nonetheless, a small number of MEPs could possibly do some damage when it comes to approving a new president of the Commission and the individual commissioners.

In fact, the scope is probably less than imagined. The European Parliament (EP) groups have already made their nominations under the Spitzenkandidaten procedure and it is now up to the European Council to choose its preferred candidate – having regard to the outcome of the EP elections which have yet to be held.

There is still a significant degree of disagreement over the validity of the Spitzenkandidaten procedure but, if the EP is given its head and gets to decide on the nominee, it is marginally possible that twenty or so UK dissidents will affect the vote. This is especially the case as Labour will be expected to do well, while nationalist votes might erode the EPP vote.

But, if this does substantially alter the political balance, amongst the 751 MEPs who will comprise the parliament as long as the Brits are still in place, then the European Council might exert its right to its "autonomous competence" to nominate the candidate, which the parliament might then allow to pass. Currently, Manfred Weber is the EPP's favourite, as Juncker is not standing for a second term, although Euractiv has suggested that antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is the clear overall favourite.

Whatever the outcome, the key date is 1 November, when the new Commission president is expected to take office, and it is then that the EU may be looking for a clean sweep. It will want the UK to make up its mind whether it comes back into the fold, as a fully committed member, or gets out of town. Thus, 31 October is shaping up to be make or break.

Given that the UK abandoning Brexit actually solves nothing, and for the Conservatives probably represents electoral annihilation – as does a no-deal Brexit – one might have thought that the Tories might be rallying behind the prime minister, purely out of self-preservation as a party.

Many Tories, though, are said to be flocking to Farage's Brexit party. And although many false comparisons have been made between the party and the Nazis, it is valid to note the similarities between Farage and Hitler, in terms of their employment of demagogic skills.

Common in both men is the absence of clear policies to address the issues besetting their nations, while both highlighted their favoured scapegoats as cause of all the ills. In Hitler's case, it was the Jews. Farage, at least, is more diverse, variously blaming the EU, immigrants, the Conservatives and, latterly, the "two-party system".

This September will mark the 80th anniversary of the conflict that was to be called the Second World War, but even with that distance in time, Hitler's rise to power and his grip on the German nation remain objects of fascination.

With that comes the unspoken (and sometimes not so unspoken) sense of superiority that the British did not succumb to the allure of Fascism, even though we had a British pretender in the form of Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts.

Perhaps Mosley's great mistake was to adopt the uniform and mannerisms of his continental counterparts, turning him into a somewhat absurd figure. Had he worn a double-breasted suit or a blazer, and relied on boyish charm and self-deprecating humour, he might have found that the stolid English were also an easy target for the demagogue.

Certainly, there is no excuse for this mindless rush to partake in a meaningless contest, supporting a man who has nothing but a record of dismal failure in his personal strategies to remove us from the EU, and who has been largely silent since the referendum as to what course of action we should take.

Followers of his empty rhetoric, when they regain their senses, might better understand why Germany took the path it did, and how easy it is for nations to be led astray.

That said, I don't believe that Farage (or his Goering equivalent) has the wherewithal or the intent to mount the equivalent of burning down the Reichstag, to justify bringing him to power. But then the situation is hardly the same as 1933 Germany.

With a no-deal Brexit still the default scenario, all Farage has to do is muddy the waters, enough for Mrs May to take fright and abandon any further attempts to bring the Withdrawal Agreement before the Commons. He then gets his no-deal, with a win-win option, whereby he gains another five years in a lucrative job if we don't leave the EU.

Eventually, there must come a limit to the degree to which we can blame our politicians for our misfortunes. But if we haven't the wit as a nation to see through the beguiling tricks of a poundshop demagogue, then we will arrive at the point where, collectively, we deserve what we get.

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