Eurocrat Thomas Kropp was as much in the dark as anybody about Brexit at Wednesday’s Rotary Club lunch with a key British parliamentary vote due that night (as there seems to be almost every night) but still managed to shed some light with a critical and pessimistic analysis. With the United Kingdom scheduled to leave the European Union yesterday, Kropp – Germany’s delegate on the EU’s Social and Economic Committee (Europe’s link-up with its private sector) – said that Britain has to decide what it wants after saying for so long what it does not want.
Speaking in fluent and fairly local Spanish (the result of heading the Konrad Adenauer Foundation here from 1991 to 1995), Kropp said the hard Brexiteers were rejecting Theresa May’s exit deal with the EU for containing too many concessions but speculated that the alternatives – new elections and especially a second referendum – might prompt them to grant last-minute approval.
And there is the problem of May’s Ulster Unionist allies with the fears of a reclosed frontier with the Republic of Ireland reviving the last century’s civil strife – hence that jargon word “backstop” to keep the border open until new arrangements are in place.
Brexit would be an economic catastrophe for Britain, Kropp argued unhesitatingly, if also a headache for the EU. The British government had grossly underestimated its negotiating clout with the rest of the world while only offering 10 percent of the EU market. Brexit is especially hard on the City of London (which voted massively to remain) with financial companies already migrating to Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin while Airbus is also pulling out (Kropp is also an old Lufthansa hand).
If some people thought that the EU was handing hard Brexiteers ammunition by being too tough with May, this was because Brussels did not want to encourage freeloaders, which brought up to the upcoming European Parliament elections as from May 23. There was a lot of anti-EU feeling out there in the other 27 members, he said (the EU’s recent clash with Google, Facebook, etc. could create new tensions with the younger generations, he feared) , adding that the David Cameron government might have paid more attention to that general trend before making its gamble.
Wednesday’s lunch also included the incorporation of United States Ambassador Edward Prado (here since last May), highlighting his distinguished 35-year judicial career mostly in Texas.