EU geo-political crash course for Americans seeking European political refuge
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EU geo-political crash course for Americans seeking European political refuge

Monday, 02 November 2020
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

The list gets longer every day. American family members, friends and even a few foes from across the Atlantic Ocean have been inquiring for months: do you by chance have any extra room for a permanent guest?

Of course the driving force behind this en masse desire to seek relief across the Atlantic Ocean is the possibility that the Donald Trump nightmare will run on ad nauseum no matter what happens Nov. 3

Unfortunately I have to disappoint all of my pleading, potential refugee acquaintances. First is the fact that currently they can not enter the European Union on a tourist visa because of corona virus restrictions. The second, and most worrisome, requires a crash course in European geopolitics.

Europe is by no means a safe haven from the forces that threaten a civil society where the rule of law and sound science are driving forces, I explain. Furthermore, I add that Europe has more than its share of Trump-Putin prototypes who have been aided and abetted over the past four years by the U.S. president and his courtesans.

To provide context on the current state of European political affairs, I first point out that the bold headlines from July highlighting the EU’s Hamiltonian moment when the 27 EU countries agreed to mutualize debt as part of an Covid-19 economic recovery plan were premature.

I explain that a few key ‘devil in the details’ obstructions have emerged. One has to do with demands to restrict any new funding for EU countries that do not abide by EU law, such as an independent judiciary or equal rights for the LGBT community. Few in the U.S. understand how Trump has emboldened governments such as those in Poland and Hungary to defy EU and western democratic values.

Further to that point I have to explain how powerful politicians such as Italy’s Matteo Salvini, France’s Marine Le Pen, the Netherlands’s Geert Wilders, Spain’s Santiago Abascal Conde as well as far right political parties such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Sweden Democrats or Belgium’s Vlaams Blok pray at the alter of Trumpism.

Another of those ‘devil in the details” of the July EU Covid-19 recovery agreement involves financial oversight for how individual member states will spend the billions of euros that will be financed jointly over the next decade.

I explain that a decade on from the Greek debt crisis the lack of fiscal prudence is still a big problem in some countries. More to the point: some northern countries, I explain, do not trust their southern neighbours that the money will not be wasted due to inefficient bureaucracy and corruption.

Then there is the issue of raising the tax revenue to pay the debt. I explain that despite the presence of an EU single market since 1992 there is no common, corporate EU tax scheme with a formulary apportionment scheme to share revenue such as has existed in the U.S. since the end of the 19th century. And now with the EU mutual debt agreement it is time to cross that tax revenue Rubicon but there are still some EU countries refusing to make the plunge.

Of course, Brexit always comes up in this conversation. Few Americans understand the economic and political dynamics involved nor the impact that the divorce will have on both sides of the North Sea.

Nor do they understand the nefarious influence that Trump’s divide and conquer strategy has played in the UK-EU relations. However most can easily understand that in the face of Putin’s devious deeds or the ever expanding bully behaviour of China it would make sense for a united EU that includes the U.K. to circle the wagons together and defend democracy and the rule of law.

But I have to inform them that Boris Johnson, many of his government ministers as well as party stalwarts have simply lost the plot when it comes to what has anchored post World War II transatlantic peace and prosperity for the past 75 years.

I explain that Tory Brexiteers have pursued delusions as deceitful and damaging as the Trumpian Make America Great Again rhetoric. One of these is the claim that free trade agreements are a quick-fix miracle cure instead of a mirage at the long end of a tunnel – a reality any experienced trade negotiator will confirm.

Thus, I explain, that combined with the Covid-19 impact, the Johnson-led government has slow walked themselves into a corner and face economic calamity.

By the time I get to the end of this sobering transatlantic conversation most of my fellow Americans get the point: there is nowhere to run from the miasmic mess Trump has created. I make it clear that the only way to reverse the decline of progressive politics is at the U.S. ballot box. At that point I turn the table and ask a question: will there be relief on Nov. 3?

The answers I get are a wary hope but conditioned with angst and anxiety. I am told that due to all of the Republican Party imposed legal and logistical obstacles to voting – whether it be by mail-in ballots or in the booth – combined with plethora of expected court cases challenging the results if Trump and/or the Republicans lose control of the U.S. Senate few belief relief is in sight.

As one friend put it: “I am hopeful but I have a leaden sense of dread in my belly.”

By Joe Kirwin