Chequers is dead: long live an alternative Europe

Prime Minister May was a remainer, and has remained a remainer. She has ensured that Whitehall leads the negotiation with Brussels. Since Whitehall is part of the Brussels establishment, it is the establishment negotiating with itself about how best to dilute or even negate the referendum result of June 23, 2016.

The same people who negotiated between the time of Prime Minister Cameron’s Bloomberg speech in January 2013 and Cameron’s announcement of his proposed deal with the EU in February 2016 have also negotiated the Chequers deal. Cameron’s February 2016 speech was greeted by a Sun headline: “Who do EU think you are kidding?”. The response to Chequers is similar.

Britain could have stayed in the EU prior to June 23, had Cameron revoked the Heath definition of the EU as a supranational institution, to which the UK is subordinate. Neither France, nor Germany, nor Italy recognize such a definition.

Remainers do not want to follow the Germans and have a more national definition of the EU. They are campaigning to keep the UK in an EU where the UK remains supranationalist No Uno. Trouble is: it doesn’t sing at home.

Nor does it sing in Germany or France. The Constitutional Court of Germany refers to the EU as no more than an alliance of sovereign states, and contests the ECJ’s claim for supremacy-so ardently championed by UK supranationalists. In August, President Macron has proposed a Europe of concentric circles-quite a different perspective.

Its for the British government to decide whether they should vote again in a second referendum. Since polls are now completely politicized, it would be unwise of either side to think they would win. In the 1960s, 13 percent of voters were floaters; by the early 2000s, it was 40 percent. It is probably rather higher now.

Labour has veered sharply left and is defining itself by identity politics and anti-Semitism-ie racialism. It is being led by a man who thinks that all the sins of the world are caused by Israel and the West. He has just recently made this clear by in effect suggesting that the UK  back Hamas’ call for the liquidation of Israel.

If May had her way on Chequers, the UK will be a vassal state; the pretence would be that the UK is independent. But  the aim of Whitehall-Brussels-10 Downing Street is to either keep the UK semi-attached or back in. If back in it will pay its full dues, and have to join the Euro.

It can’t be semi-attached à la Chequers. The formula doesn’t sing at home, and M. Barnier has said Non, it’s not legal.

Nor, by the way, is the EU. Trying to smuggle supranationalism in through the backdoor, as Lord Kerr did as former President Giscard d’Estaing’s factotum during the EU Constitutional Convention of 2002-2004, is not clever. The French, Dutch and Irish voted no.

The EU supranationalists took a pause, then introduced the Lisbon Treaty, which rejigged the failed Constitution. As Giscard d’Estaing told the European Parliament, in every essential, it’s the same thing.

Jean-Claude Juncker was more to the point: “When it becomes serious, you have to lie”. Prime Minister May, arguably the most foolish PM ever, acts as if she agrees.

The crisis over Brexit is a European crisis. Germany, as I have written on this blog, can only accept the EU on its terms. France wants Germany and the Netherlands to fund a Finance Ministry and make the EU the centre of a massive north-south redistribution. The member states from central-eastern Europe disagree.

Scandinavia and Finland are turning against open borders. The countries of central-eastern Europe, crushed by dictatorships for most of their post-1918 existence, are in no mind to yield to the commissars in Brussels.

I propose that the UK’s official supranationalism, which gives it allies in Brussels, is a failure. It was bound to be a failure. Merging a mosaic of states and peoples, with different languages, legal traditions, histories, tax systems and economic structures—not to speak of cultures—into a United States of Europe (USE) was, is and will remain a dream.

The trouble with utopias is that they fast become dystopias.The EU is presently a dystopia. A truly European response would be to create a European alliance of democratic constitutional states, with Brussels cut down to size, its pretensions scaled back. If that could be achieved, Europe could come into its own. It is already the wealthiest region of the world. Less integrated, it would be more united.

Now that really would change the way the world works.

About Jonathan Story, Professor Emeritus, INSEAD

Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD in 1974, he worked in Brussels and Washington, where he obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has held the Marusi Chair of Global Business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Schoold of Business, Fordham University, New York. He is preparing a monograph on China’s impact on the world political economy, and another on a proposal for a contextual approach to business studies. He has a chapter forthcoming on the Euro crisis. His latest book is China UnCovered: What you need to know to do business in China, (FT/ Pearson’s, 2010) ( His previous books include “China: The Race to Market” (FT/Pearsons, 2003), The Frontiers of Fortune, (Pitman’s, 1999); and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe : The Battle of the Systems,(MIT Press, 1998) on monetary union and financial markets in the EU, and co-authored with Ingo Walter of NYU. His books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. He is also a co-author in the Oxford Handbook on Business and Government(2010), and has contributed numerous chapters in books and articles in professional journals. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, and has been four times winner of the European Case Clearing House “Best Case of the Year” award. His latest cases detail hotel investments in Egypt and Argentina, as well as a women’s garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and a Chinese auto parts producer. He teaches courses on international business and the global political economy. At the INSEAD campus, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, he has taught European and world politics, markets, and business in the MBA, and PhD programs. He has taught on INSEAD’s flagship Advanced Management Programme for the last three decades, as well as on other Executive Development and Company Specific courses. Jonathan Story works with governments, international organisations and multinational corporations. He is married with four children, and, now, thirteen grandchildren. Besides English, he is fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, reads Portuguese and is learning Russian. He has a bass voice, and gives concerts, including Afro-American spirituals, Russian folk, classical opera and oratorio.
This entry was posted in France and Germany, United Kingdom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Chequers is dead: long live an alternative Europe

  1. Caroline Galwey says:

    Great post, Jonathan. Thank you for putting it on the Times comments – I shall be following from now on!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.