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25 march 2017, eu can check out any time you like...

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

The brits have always been sceptical. Their delegate at messina in 1955 left before the famous political declaration that 2 years later created what is today the eu, saying "I leave because you will never agree, and if you agree you will never implement it, and if you implement it, it will be a disaster". They only joined in the 70s when stuck in the economic doldrums while europe's benelux writ seemed to be spreading the german economic miracle across the continent. Back in the early noughties, when my job was the first half of the "prepare and decide" policy on joining the euro, it was clear the uk would only sign up when, again, the uk economy seemed to be heading terminally south whilst the euro area was soaring. That has not yet happened. Indeed, far from just standing at the back as a rather dazed eu celebrates 60 years, britain has taken the unprecedented step of trying to leave altogether. In this case, the disaster will befall everyone, but predominantly impact the smaller and weaker party. Back in euroland, french and german elections look set to underpin renewed and perhaps even strong, pro-eu leadership. With europe nearing the end of its decade of eurosclerosis, sunlight may at last be gingerly peeping through, even as the grey clouds of trump, putin and the rest threaten renewed storms. Indeed, external threats often cause communities to get bound more tightly together. As for blighty, striking off in its red, white and blue (now-german) mini coopers, don't lose hope that once it becomes evident in a few years what a catastrophic proposition leaving actually is, the politics of common sense and self-interest may reassert themselves (the negotiations can theoretically go on endlessly). Otherwise, the sooner everyone starts redesigning europe's outer area for us to dock into the better (see 11 june 2016, building the post-brexit boat). It's all rather hotel california, though the bill for checking-out is going to be rather substantial and an early point of great contention. Divorces are never swift or easy, and sometimes so hard the couple just ends up getting back together...