Friday, June 10, 2016

Germany, Europe should adopt the pragmatic "Velvet Divorce" attitude towards Brexit

All relationships agreed to be useful by both sides should be preserved

Today, we visited The Stork Nest, the luxurious farm and rural conference center owned by our billionaire finance minister Mr Andrej Babiš. Elegant.

The European stock markets had a terrible day. Super Mario Draghi said something pessimistic, perhaps also in relationship with Brexit. Independently, there have been intense German-British interactions in the media. Take e.g.
German finance minister threatens to BLOCK Britain from the single market if country votes for Brexit... but magazine pleads for us to stay
in the Daily Mail. I am sorry but Wolfgang Schäuble is either immature – if he doesn't fully understand the consequences of his blackmail – or he is downright evil, destructive, and non-democratic.

Let me emphasize that Wolfgang Schäuble isn't an EU dictator – not even to the extent to which Adolf Hitler was one. In particular, Schäuble doesn't decide whether the U.K. will be able to remain in the European free market after the hypothetical Brexit.

Even in Germany, there are lots of people aside from Herr Schäuble who will influence the decision. And then there are about 400 million EU citizens outside Germany, with their politicians, who will contribute to such decisions, too. I don't believe that the German companies – importers and exporters – will actually be willing to damage the trade relationships. I don't believe that Mercedes and BMW want to "punish" the British voters and stop exporting the cars to the U.K.

My opinions are even clearer when we think about other EU countries that are much less brainwashed by the fanatical Euronaive ideology than Germany is. For Czechia, the trade with the U.K. isn't too important but I am still sure that even after the Leave vote, almost everyone will want to keep the trade relationships as similar to the status quo as possible. After all, most of the Czech citizens understand the reasons the British may have to leave very well. The number of Czechs who would passionately want to punish the U.K. for the Leave vote will be basically zero. To a lesser extent, it's true in most other countries of the EU, too.

Wolfgang Schäuble decided to turn himself into the poster boy of the EU bullies. "You have to be obedient to the EU, otherwise you will be kaput", he threatens (and others threaten) everyone. But let me emphasize. The Brexit vote simply does not imply that the relationships between the citizens and companies across the Channel have to deteriorate. If Wolfgang Schäuble will cripple the trade between the U.K. and the remainder of the EU, it will the Schäuble's malicious sin, not some unavoidable consequence of the Brexit itself. Wolfgang Schäuble, and not the British voters, will become an evil pile of Šajze that should better be cleaned if the Britons and Europeans will want to restore their prosperity.

I am sure that most people in Western Europe – I mean the countries that have never lived under the total power of a communist party – believe that they must be wiser than e.g. us in Czechia and Slovakia. They're wealthier so they assume that they must be wiser, too. But it's not necessarily so (the wealth gap was caused by very different things than the differences in the present wisdom with respect to the EU) and Schäuble's blackmail is another piece of evidence that it is not so. Because I hear what the likes of Herr Schäuble say, I feel it is my duty to act as the adult in the room, scream at Herr Schäuble, and make this naughty boy listen to what needs to be said.

You know, when we removed the communists' total power in the Velvet Revolution, there was suddenly much more room for people to express their feelings about everything. This included the natural Slovak patriotism that was mostly suppressed by the Czechoslovak communist machinery. Suddenly, we saw that quite some percentage of the Slovaks were really proud about their softcore clerofascist Slovak State during the Second World War. And they wanted to be independent in this and that and to be more visible and they believed to be different from Czechs.

If we return to mid 1992, before the Velvet Divorce was negotiated, most Czechs just didn't have any real empathy for those Slovak sentiments. Yes, indeed, we mostly used the adjectives "Czech" and "Czechoslovak" as synonyms and we probably thought that it was natural for Slovaks to consider "Czechoslovak" and "Slovak" to be basically synonyms, too. ;-) We thought that only a couple of rural bumpkins, shepherds, and simpletons could want an independent Slovakia. We were confident that it would be silly to separate the country, make "ourselves" (even) smaller, and so on.

Just to be sure. Dear British readers should understand that they're the Slovaks in this analogy while the German readers should be the Czechs. Note that according to the traffic maps, 45% of TRF readers are American, 8% are British, and 7% are German – three top countries. This top list – with Canada, France, Czechia at the following spots – has been constant for years.

Many TV programs told us about the Great Civil War in Czechoslovakia that would start if some separation process began and all stuff like that. Václav Havel considered the dissolution of Czechoslovakia unacceptable and resigned in mid 1992 as the Czechoslovak president to protest the divorce – before he was restored as the Czech president in January 1993. ;-)

Some Czech politicians – and I usually like to mention the late mathematician (set theorist) Petr Vopěnka, a former Czech education minister – were ahead of others and were promoting the dissolution of Czechoslovakia well before details were ready. They argued it was better to separate the ways. Also, the subsidies for Slovakia could stop and Czechs could be better off, and so on. Vopěnka was unusual because he had some anti-Slovak emotions (very rare among Czechs in 1992; in some sense, Vopěnka was a mirror of the Slovak nationalists) but he was also highly rational.

So at every moment, there was some "school of thought" in Czechia that was imagining how to arrange the life well after the separation of Slovakia. And after the elections in mid 1992 – the results were dramatically different in Czechia (right-wing Klaus won) and Slovakia (left-wing populist Mečiar won) – all these plans had to be made very specific. It was mainly Klaus who masterminded the algorithms to split all the things so that things worked basically flawlessly, even when the currency was split into 2 some six weeks after the dissolution of countries on January 1st, 1993.

There are lots of technical principles behind the Velvet Divorce that people responsible for similar situations should learn lessons from – and I am sure that top U.K. and EU politicians should look into this history because it may be helpful if Brexit wins. When it came to assets, there was the simple sketch: try to find out naturally whether some assets are in Czechia or Slovakia (or have already been assigned to the nation states that existed within the federal state). If that's possible and natural, the new country will get it. If things are shared (e.g. cash etc.), they will be divided by a fixed ratio, 2-to-1 in our Czecho-Slovak case. The Velvet Divorce is a big enough event and one simply has to be generous because the whining of the spouse is one of the first things that the wiser, Czech spouse, simply wants to get rid of. And when the spouse is acting reasonably as well, it's simply better for both.

There was clearly something more important than the technical details and even the broad technical principles: the good will. The top politicians simply wanted the events to work well. It's not just because they were saints. The top politicians who were masterminding the dissolution (mainly Klaus and Mečiar) were destined to become the leading politicians in the two new countries. So they just naturally didn't want the things to be screwed because they would obviously be responsible for the consequences.

I want to say that whether or not all the players realize that, exactly the same rules apply in the case of the Brexit. Like in the case of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the separation would be mostly driven by one side, the U.K. (new Slovaks) in this case. But it doesn't matter. Just like the Slovaks clearly had the right to choose politicians who wanted to gradually weaken the federal structures of Czechoslovakia and/or declare the outright independence (Slovak National Party), the Britons clearly have the same right.

Sometime by autumn 1992, most Czechs understood that Slovaks didn't have to be complete idiots to dislike the tight federal Czechoslovak country that most Czechs preferred. After all, many people know what it means to be a younger brother (or a son of a famous or authoritative father) and the Slovak separatist dreams weren't infinitely different from our own desire to be separated from Austria-Hungary in 1918, or from the Third Reich during the Second World War. So Czechs realized that we were thrown into different conditions – we had some different identity – but given the specific Slovak conditions, there were legitimate reasons why Slovaks wanted what they wanted. And we didn't want an excessively confusing confederacy with an unclear status, so it was agreed that the full divorce may work very well, too.

The actual politicians were much more charismatic than the actors. But this dramatic "TV reconstruction" video shows a 3-minute exchange between Klaus and Mečiar that decided about the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Klaus outlined the options clearly. Czechs didn't want any confederacy, Slovaks didn't want a tight federal state. Both parties' membership meant that there was support for a continuing federation in both parties. Will you join the federal government? No, it won't be possible, Mečiar answered, and after a few Klaus' suggestive questions whether Slovaks wanted to continue to be parasites, the negotiations quickly switched to how the dissolution would be performed. A 2nd league Slovak politician got offended by the parasitic suggestions but Mečiar clearly understood the question very well and answered: "We want to live from our own money." Obviously, there were some similarities in Klaus' and Mečiar's personalities – which includes straight, macho ways to describe the problems – and they were extremely helpful in providing the divorce with the velvet.

It's a moral duty for German politicians and other Germans – something that may decide about the atmosphere and prosperity on the European continent plus the British islands in the future – to realize exactly the same thing about the Britons.

Dear Herr Schäuble, it simply doesn't matter whether you agree with the UKIP and its soulmates. They have the unquestionable right to separate themselves from the EU. We don't know the result and it's obvious at this advanced stage (especially because of the too-close-to-call surveys) that a competent politician or manager etc. simply has to be ready for both results now. Even the EU laws describe this right of the Britons in quite some detail – in fact, much more detail than any Czechoslovak law has ever talked about the dissolution of the country (I think it never has!). So they clearly have the right to secede from the European Union.

If they vote Leave, you will probably continue to be an important politician in Germany, Herr Schäuble. And that's why you simply don't want to badly damage the German economy or start a crazy trade war against the U.K. that will damage everyone. Your natural, rational task will be completely analogous to the tasks that the Czech and Slovak politicians faced in the two new countries created in 1993. You simply need to do things right given the boundary conditions you can't dictate. Brexit (if it is approved) will be a boundary condition – a part of the definition of the problem you will be supposed to solve.

In fact, you should not only know that you will try to protect all the "clearly mutually beneficial" links between the U.K. and the rest of the EU. You should admit that you know that, people should know that you know that, and they should be allowed to naturally assume that they know that you will behave rationally after Brexit. That's why you simply can't blackmail Britain. If you blackmail Britain, it means that you want to behave as a destructive, economy-busting saboteur after Brexit. If that's so, you should be better removed or assassinated (whichever method is more compatible with the German law) as soon as possible because everyone knows that you are a time bomb waiting to detonate the German economy and others.

Praising Britons

Schäuble and others use the carrots and sticks. So while the Britons hear the absurd threats that they won't be allowed to do business with the rest of Europe easily, they are also being praised. Don't the Britons realize how much they have contributed to Europe? To fulfill the EU gender quotas, James Bond and Twiggy's haircut are mentioned as great contributions that the U.K. has done for Europe. James Bond is such a great European, isn't he? Why don't the Britons see it, the German newspapers ask?

You gotta be kidding me.

First, I believe that the Britons know that they are a great nation and they don't need a Bremain ideologue to tell them so. A Brexit sympathizer such as your humble correspondent is more than enough. In the era of the political correctness and 60+ years after the decolonialization of much of the world, it may be popular to dismiss the Britons.

But it's obvious that Britons have made key contributions to the Western civilization – even if their most golden era is already a history (the most golden Czech era could have taken place in the mid 14th century so don't cry).

The U.S. (and obviously Canada, Australia, and others) are just particular projects of the U.K. – 45% of the TRF readers who reside in the U.S. will surely forgive me and if they won't, they can't do much, anyway. ;-) The 1215 Magna Carta was the basis of enlightened monarchies that has made the freedom and democracy possible. Capitalism was born in the Netherlands and Britain. Science and technology were basically British enterprises for several centuries – let me call it the era between Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell. This era was arguably followed by the German era between Ludwig Boltzmann and Werner Heisenberg (I had to pick some names approximately, I don't claim that this is the only way to define the intervals). Only after the Second World War, science and technology really entered the U.S.-led epoch.

Was James Bond a great EU citizen? That's not how I understood any of the movies. He has always been a loyal servant of the British queen and the country she leads. His country may have joined the EU but it doesn't mean that his country and his MI6 was identical to the average of the EU countries and institutions in them. I haven't noticed that James Bond has started to serve Jean-Claude Juncker yet. I am afraid that this transition would be deadly for the series.

For me, James Bond is still primarily an Anglo-Saxon, not European, hero. The life in the U.K. is very similar and became even more similar to the life in the continental Western Europe but it's not the same and some underlying, historically given features make it closer to America than Europe. If you collect natural arguments for the U.K. to be in the EU, most of these arguments will indicate that the U.S. should be in the EU, too. I don't want to spend hours with the comparative literature of James Bond and the EU because it's a silly exercise.

The point that it is silly is really my main point. There simply isn't any sensible way to turn James Bond or Twiggy into great arguments in favor of Bremain. Is the German media don't realize this point, they have become completely irrational. Twiggy and James Bond may very well be additional reasons for the U.K. to leave the European Union. They remind us that the U.K. did well before the EU and it may do well after the EU (or at least after their EU membership). Well, I think that there exist much more important reasons, however, and the Brexit campaign has explained them rather nicely. For example, Nigel Farage did a great job in the "contest of 2 monologues" several days ago (the Yes guy was David Cameron).

So please, Herr Schäuble and others, try to be at least as constructive as the Czechs were in 1992 when Slovaks made it clear that they feel different about the federal state. You are not the king of the British Islands – even Adolf Hitler has failed to conquer the islands around 1940 – so you should admit that there are certain facts you simply cannot determine. You must adapt to them and you should do so in the optimum way.

It may be appealing for you to become a bully who blackmails because you may think that such a blackmail will do great things for the unity of the EU that may be something you care about. But it won't. Blackmail is bad and the Britons but also other Europeans such as the Czechs (and 25 other EU countries aside from these three) are watching. The Britons may vote Brexit despite the blackmail and even if the blackmail helped to make them choose Bremain, the blackmail will have bad consequences for the EU that may be worse than the benefits. Increasingly many people will unavoidably think that the EU is running out of control and is de facto controlled by a bunch of fanatics who are ready to destroy the European economies and other things in the name of their crackpot delusions about the great European unity. The hundreds of millions of people who are noticing that you are turning into an Adolf-Hitler-style obsessed unifier may work harder against the EU sooner than you think.

If the Britons and/or other nations want to leave, this is some dynamics you cannot change. You must adapt to it.

I've mentioned the year 1940 and the German inability to occupy the British islands. It may be funny to remind the dear readers about the events here in the Czech lands at the same time. You know, there were numerous funny self-confident German nutcases who were running all over Czechoslovakia and they claimed that Czechoslovakia had been destroyed and the Czech lands were incorporated into the so-called Third Reich as the "protectorate". So these guys thought that Berlin decides about everything. Indeed, millions of Czechs found this game cute enough and tens of thousands who loudly didn't were executed (the number doesn't include 300,000 Czechoslovak Jews murdered in the Holocaust).

Meanwhile, the actual government of Czechoslovakia continued to work in London. It has worked with the likes of James Bond and executed one of the top guys, the blonde beast acting protector Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 (a key co-father of the Holocaust, among other things). In 1945, the nutcases were stopped entirely.

What the Germans should interpret as a big warning is that the German and British opinions about these European questions seem to be very similar to the opinions of the two countries in 1940 again. Once again, the German politicians are those who believe that they have the right to overrule other European nations' opinions about their place in Europe or their independence and realize their project of a unified Europe according to a German template. Once again, it's only the "German" opinions that matter (I've previously mentioned that I don't believe that the "destroy the trade" opinions are shared by the German industry etc.) and those who have different opinions must be neutralized.

You may say or think that the European union is a product of your German sense of guilt, an attempt to make Nazism impossible forever, and so on. But when one actually looks at the product, the German-led European Union, it looks very similar to the so-called Third Reich. The Internet will actually leave you uncertain whether the Fourth Reich means the contemporary Germany or the whole European Union. Well, it's probably meant to include the territory of the whole EU but only the ideas that are considered "mainstream" among top German politicians (outside AfD). Isn't it troubling?

In a new short text They Finally Said It Loudly, Czech ex-president Václav Klaus is shocked about a May 30th speech by Michael Roth, a German deputy minister for Europe, in Berlin. In the final section, "The Role of Germany in Europe Has To Be Redefined", Roth says candidly and innocently that "whether we want it or not", "Germany – the largest country – has the role of the Führer of the European Union", "a role we have to embrace". Wow.

Sorry, German comrades, but whether you think that you're more politically correct than the German leaders of Europe around 1940, what you're doing and how you're treating the interests and opinions of other nations is basically identical to what your ancestors did around 1940. And it's rather likely that if you really continue with this unacceptable attitude towards other nations, the reactions will be similar and there may be a moment analogous to May 1945, too. Maybe after you lose another world war that you help to spark, others may say "three was already enough" and a new solution without an economic miracle may be chosen instead. For the particular Roth crank: You simply cannot be a "leader" in the sense that you could realize most of your opinions. Germany is the largest EU country but it's still a small minority of the EU, too (below 20% – a percentage comparable to what AfD has in Germany now). In any system that is at least marginally democratic, it is absolutely fallacious to imagine that the German opinion is "almost the same thing" as the majority opinion.

Isn't it better to become sensible and constructive? If and when most of the British voters choose Leave, it will become a boundary condition for the British and European politicians and their goal will be to find the best setup for everyone – especially for the citizens whom the politicians represent – given the new boundary conditions. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia shows that the post-dissolution arrangement may be more efficient and more friendly than the unified one. The damn younger brother just can live by himself and should be allowed to do so. Can the Europeans do it after Brexit? Yes, we can.

If some politicians don't want the post-Brexit Europe and post-Brexit Britain to be prosperous and friendly, they're junk politicians who deserve to be driven to the dumping ground of the history as soon as possible, Herr Schäuble.

And that's the memo.

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