Last night’s defeat of Theresa May in the Commons made an already complicated and tense Brexit situation infinitely more fucktangular. Which was obviously cue for politicos of various ways, shapes and forms in Muddy Hollows not to resist the urge and comment on the entire shituation.
This fact is mildly interesting in itself as Brexit was by far one of the least debated aspects of EU matters in Slovenia, a country where EU matters don’t rate high on the agenda as it is. Unless, of course, it has to do with EU funds, in which case suddenly everyone is an expert.
Gone were the days of BoJo schmoozing with (thankfully) former foreign minister Karl Erjavec and wooing him with some carefully scripted bumbling in Slovenian and having him swallow the “clean Brexit” bait, hook, line and sinker.
Instead, we got a parade of serious looking and sounding politicians, mostly taking to Twitter to express. Just. How. Worried. They. Are. Hashtag. Emoji.
In all honesty, boilerplate responses are probably the best strategy right now. Not just because the EU-27 are maintaining an unusually coherent front, spearheaded by Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Michel Barnier, but also because there is precious little Slovenian officials can say at all.
I mean, the government hasn’t even come up with a comprehensive Brexit impact assessment, let alone an action plan. True, a lot of that impact will be Europe-wide and there will be a lot of action taken on European level, but it would still be good to have a go-to document or a website, where Slovenians (expats, nationals with foreign partners, business people, students, etc) as well as Brits living in Slovenia could see what possible effects UK quitting the EU will have on them.
Granted, there are some documents available. The foreign ministry added an extra paragraph to the page with information on Slovenian embassy in London. The problem is, the Brexit section is not linked. You have to scroll all the way down to find it.
Things are slightly better on the Slovenian embassy website (which is a part of the ministry web portal and visually indistinguishable from the rest of the portal, but hey!) where there is an actual Brexit page. Which contains exactly 133 words, three links to EU content on Brexit in general, a link to a UK government website on status of EU nationals and an in-house three-page PDF file.
So yeah, there is no real Brexit impact assessment by the Slovenian government. Best to just stick with the programme, then.
This was obvious to Slovenian MEPs. Most of them, anyway. Without missing a beat, they all repeated various parts of the EU talking points, from “we’re sad to see you go” to “we wish you made up your mind as to what you really want”.
Remarkably, even the usually quite dense Milan Zver MEP (SDS/EPP) was able to toe the line
But such was the mood in Brussels and/or Strasbourg, where the only colour in the Slovenian response was added by Ivo Vajgl MEP, (DeSUS/ALDE) who made a snide remark about “us” already being so over “them”.
Back home, however, it was a different story. While the government was muted in its response, politicians who really should know better waded in on the issue like there’s no tomorrow.
Case in point being chairperson of the parliamentary foreign relations committee Matjaž Nemec (SD) who right off the bat slammed the British political class as being petty, selfish and putting their parties above their country.
Which may even be something one can agree with but is definitely not something a senior MP can or indeed should say. One can already picture the extremely capable British ambassador to Slovenia popping over for coffee by the end of the week and telling Nemec off in her own charming way.
But if Nemec was being undiplomatic and impolite, the leader of NSi and erstwhile Speaker of the National Assembly Matej Tonin was downright stupid, tweeting that Brexit is a mistake which can be rectified by a second referendum.
Again. It is quite possible to agree with Tonin on this, but for a politician of not insignificant mileage (especially at his age) to say something like that… Well, let’s just say that this shows why there are only handful of Slovenian politicians who survive a move to an international stage.
What Tonin tweeted, feeds directly into the Brexiteers’ (largely false) narrative of condescending and patronising EU, treating the UK as a vassal state.
I mean, yeah, the Brits fucked up royally with voting for Brexit. And then fucked up some more by not having an actual negotiating strategy. And then fucked up all the way to 11 by shooting down a deal that under any other circumstances would be considered a diplomatic miracle.
And yet, it is for the British to solve this. The EU says it won’t budge. And even as it doesn’t budge it still manages to find wiggle room. But in the end, it is for the British political class to find a way out of this mess.
Because even if right now they do look like they’ve collectively shat a Lego garage, the worst thing the EU or any continental politician can do right now is to engage in Schadenfreude and patronising.
When the dust settles, we’ll still be next-door neighbours and, who knows, maybe the UK will one day reapply for EU membership?