Brexit Diaries 43: Sweating bullets in London | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.08.2018

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Brexit Diaries 43: Sweating bullets in London

The UK's point man for Brexit is getting nervous, Emmanuel Macron leaves Theresa May empty-handed and the Tories say "no thanks" to Mr. Banks. Meanwhile, Danish influence in Britain may soon be on the decline.

Despite the cool press conference room, the United Kingdom's Brexit secretary was sweating horribly. Was it the pressure of spreading nonsense to the public that caused Dominic Raab such discomfort? Was it fear that, because of the findings in the government's Brexit impact papers, he was likely to make a fool of himself? "Our institutions will be ready for Brexit — deal or no deal," Raab promised, against his better judgment. It's hard to be a government official sometimes.

In any case, the first 24 so-called technical notices about a no-deal Brexit were a hard sell. For exporters, there is more red tape. The UK government's terse advice? Get a customs expert, or buy software to figure out how much you will have to pay the European Union for your products. After decades of free trade, no borders and no hassle, that is quite a shock.

Consumers will face higher charges for credit card payments and UK citizens living in the EU may for a while lose access to their pensions, bank accounts and investments. Drug manufacturers are being told to stockpile six weeks of medicine in case there is an import disruption after Brexit. Farmers should, on the other hand, prepare for trouble when exporting organic foods — it could take up to nine months until the EU approves a new UK regulatory body. Companies dealing with nuclear material should quickly engage with Euratom and figure out what will happen after the divorce. At least students may be able to enjoy the popular Erasmus exchange program until 2020.

Read more: Scotland wants to avoid Brexit but doesn't know how

Theresa May stood back from the upheaval and let her Brexit secretary take the flak. Her only attempt to reassure people came when she set out on a trip to Africa in order to "deepen the UK's global partnerships." A Brexit without a deal would be "no walk in the park, but not the end of the world either," May said.

Macron and May

May visited French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month at his holiday residence as part of an effort to soften his approach to Brexit. Couldn't he be just a little bit less rigorous and more accommodating? She left empty-handed, as expected.

Theresa May with Emmanuel Macron

Macron was not as friendly an ear as May had hoped

Macron made clear Monday in his first response to those talks what he thinks of leniency towards the Brits. "France wants to maintain a strong, special relationship with London, but not if the cost is the European Union unraveling," he said. "It's a sovereign choice which we must respect, but it can't come at the expense of the EU's integrity."

Read more: 'Little Britain' in Germany's Rhine region lives on borrowed time

That ends on the spot her half-baked Brexit proposal, concocted over a dramatic weekend retreat with her ministers earlier this summer. A single market for goods only and without freedom of movement? Forget it, chere Madame le Premier ministre. 

Back to the 'troubles?'

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg is a mutinous Conservative MP with aristocratic pretensions. He wants to take his country back to the past in every way possible and it has now emerged that he is advocating a heavy dose of nostalgia in order to solve the vexed Northern Ireland border question.

Northern Ireland border check in 1976

Rees-Mogg suggested reinstating the border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland

Why not have inspections along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, he asked, just like during the "troubles?" We used to keep a close eye on the border then, and it seems to have worked just fine, Rees-Mogg said. The violent, 30-year fighting between Unionists and Republicans in Ireland, known as the "troubles," cost thousands of lives and almost ruined the country. Nobody on either side of the political divide wants to return to that. This rabid Brexiteer urgently needs a history lesson.

No thanks, Mr. Banks

Millionaire businessman Arron Banks was the main source of finance for the Vote.EU campaign that relentlessly lobbied for Brexit before the referendum. He is also a friend of Nigel Farage, the far-right firebrand looking to make another political comeback.

Read more: Is the Brexit hard-liner European Research Group running the UK?

Banks, who is accused of shady campaign finance dealings with Russia, assumes correctly that the struggle for Brexit is now being fought within the Conservative party. He therefore attempted to become a Tory member in order to throw his weight behind a hard Brexit candidate in the party's upcoming leadership battle. But this was one step to far for the Conservatives, who aren't interested in more infighting while May is battling for her future. Thanks, no Banks please, was the stringent answer from Tory HQ.

Arron Banks

The Tories said 'no thanks' to Mr. Banks

No more Danes after Brexit

This is surely another consequence of Brexit that never crossed anyone's mind: From the technical notices, it emerged that the import of sperm from the EU would come to an end after a no-deal Brexit. When the UK is no longer part of the bloc, directives on organ donation and tissues, which cover human sperm, eggs and embryos, will end. Couples trying to conceive by artificial insemination would no longer be able to use donations supplied by other EU countries, the majority of which come from Denmark.

Why Denmark? Do Brits feel connected to the Scandinavian country by their common Viking past? As it stands now, the report suggests that after Brexit, British men will have to make up the difference.