Cold war post-Brexit, and why the PN needs a communications maestro

The pretence that there is an ‘us and them’ continued even when the UK was an EU member state, let alone post Brexit

In a speech last Wednesday, the Bank of England Governor Andrew Baily said that now is not the time for the EU to pick a fight with the UK on the financial sector. The speech was reported by the British tabloid press as “a warning” to the EU.

Currently the UK and EU counterparts are negotiating the terms of a memorandum of understanding over access for City institutions to European financial markets in pursuit of a deal which regulators are hoping to sign by March.

Mr Bailey urged the EU to avoid a spat with the UK concerning trade in financial services after Brexit, accusing the EU of asking for greater demands from the UK than from other countries. In fact, Brussels wants the UK to follow existing rules for a number of years without diverging.

Mr Bailey’s speech was delivered just over a month after the UK exited the Brexit transition period. Anyone who thought that the voluminous Brexit agreement laid to rest any UK-EU squabbling, is completely wrong.

The agreement left a large number of unsettled issues and the UK will probably spend the next five years, or more, trying to ‘fix’ them. The possibility of any success in this is, frankly, remote.

The issue is not just a question of the traditional difference in attitude between mainstream Europe and the UK. Add to this the UK’s aim to prove that Brexit was a good decision already bearing fruit and the EU’s resolve to show that leaving the bloc is political and an economic suicide.

A week or so ago, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove went to Brussels to beg for an extension to the Northern Ireland grace period by two years. The move would make it easier for goods moving to Northern Ireland from Great Britain – but this was a big hurdle during the Brexit negotiations and the EU feels it has made enough concessions about the issue.

There has also been a spat about the status of the EU Ambassador. The UK argues that ambassadors represent sovereign countries and not political blocs. In practice this means that the UK does not recognise the EU as a legitimate foreign policy actor. Obviously the EU is irked by this attitude.

And it goes on and on.

Without British ministers attending Council of the EU meetings, it seems that the UK now lacks a formal mechanism to discuss sensitive foreign policy and security matters – such as potential sanctions targets – on a confidential basis with the bloc.

According to a survey of 470 firms, carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) almost half of British exporters to the EU are facing difficulties with mounting Brexit red tape and border disruption after a month of the new rules.

UK companies were facing extra costs, delays in shipments to and from the EU, with mountains of new paperwork and confusion about what particular rules apply in each case.

In fact, trade flows between the UK and the EU dropped below usual levels in January amid Brexit and COVID disruption, as well as after firms rushed to stockpile goods in December to beat the end of the transition period on 31 December. Boris Johnson has actually acknowledged there are “teething problems” a month into the new rules.

However, business leaders said there would be a permanently higher cost of doing business even after initial complications subside and many British businesses are reducing their operations in the UK and increasing them in their plants in the EU.

This the real cost of Brexit and I don’t think it will get any better in the future.

Some argue that the English attitude towards the EU makes sense if one looks at Britain’s relations with Europe over hundreds of years. The English have generally been Eurosceptics since Joan of Arc finally put an end to the dreams of the Anglo-Saxon kings ruling France.

Subsequently, the cornerstone of British foreign policy has been to prevent any country, particularly France and Germany, from controlling Europe, while Britain exploited its colonies protected by a very powerful Royal Navy.

The name of the game was to keep Europe divided and therefore weak. Historically, the English fought Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler to a large extent to prevent them from controlling all of Europe. In other words Britain knew that it always benefited from a politically divided Europe.

Things have changed, but many Englishmen are not aware of this!

The pretence that there is an ‘us and them’ continued even when the UK was an EU member state, let alone post Brexit.

The PN media

The PN media is in a shambles. Not just now, but for many years – probably since Joe Saliba left his post of General Secretary.

It is obvious that it lacks a guiding hand following a pre-determined strategy. News that could be used to the PN’s advantage are either ignored or spun the wrong way.

Editorials are all just old hat or speak of a ‘vision’ that does not exist because it has not been fleshed out. When they speak of particular issues, they rarely can be positive. Many might think that some of these editorials are the ramblings of some old decrepit writer.

In contrast, the GWU newspapers have stopped publishing inane editorials with puerile attacks on the PN. Their editorials have become respectable and afford food for thought, while all the editorials of the PN media are just negativity and repetition.

In short, the PN lacks a coherent communications strategy. It needs to integrate news in this strategy. I am not for spinning news, but not looking at the big picture when reporting stories has become the trend in the PN media.

It sends the message that putting the current administration in a bad light is its very raison d’être for the media’s existence. Unfortunately, sometimes this also includes attacking persons just to please their personal enemies.

It badly needs a communications maestro reviewing what message is actually being sent – if any – to the people outside the party circles and how to ensure that the reporting ties in with a sensible subliminal message.