Texit? Ohexit? European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker fired back at Donald Trump’s salute to Brexit today, threatening to encourage American jurisdictions to secede from the union in reprisal. He might need a better map, however — and a better sense of American history:
In an extraordinary speech the EU Commission president said he would push for Ohio and Texas to split from the rest of America if the Republican president does not change his tune and become more supportive of the EU.
The remarks are diplomatic dynamite at a time when relations between Washington and Brussels are already strained over Europe’s meagre contributions to NATO and the US leader’s open preference for dealing with national governments. …
He said: “Brexit isn’t the end. A lot of people would like it that way, even people on another continent where the newly elected US President was happy that the Brexit was taking place and has asked other countries to do the same.
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas in the US.”
It’s always comforting to know that adults are in charge, no? Le sigh. Juncker’s sensitivity to the precarious position in which Brexit leaves the EU is certainly understandable, but Trump had nothing to do with that, nor with the vote that produced the UK’s decision to exit after decades within the supernational union. That vote took place while Barack Obama was still president, who made it clear that he personally opposed the idea. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry also opined after the vote that he wasn’t taking Brexit entirely seriously.
Did Juncker advise Obama and Kerry to mind their own business last year? Perhaps we missed that declaration.
Juncker’s potshot attempts to distract from problems of the EU’s own making, but actually highlights the issue. The US has a long history of shared national identity and sovereignty, dating back functionally to the outcome of the Civil War and fundamentally to the Revolutionary War. We speak the same language, and with short-term exceptions of California and Texas, no state operated as its own republic. The EU’s ambitious project took nations with long histories of sovereignty, differing languages, and a millennium of armed conflict over nationalism, ethnicity, and religion and added a layer of government over the top of it. While the Europeans have worked hard to eliminate those conflicts through the EU, it’s still stuck somewhere between a nation and a multilateral economic arrangement that leaves room for those conflicts to fester in other ways. The EU never did get full buy-in on surrender of sovereignty from its member states, and without that, competing national interests — especially those driven by crisis, such as the refugee flood from the Syrian civil war — inevitably will lead to a reversion to sovereignty. Those issues may be resolvable, but they’re not at all related to Trump’s stream-of-consciousness commentary.
At any rate, it’s a silly tantrum; if American influence didn’t work to stop Brexit in either the vote or execution in the UK, the country with which we have the strongest ties in Europe, then Trump’s remarks on the EU won’t have a determinative impact either — or any other level of impact, for that matter. That doesn’t mean that Trump’s correct in taking shots at our allies in the EU, however; it just means that both sides should take the opportunity to shut the heck up for a while and let Europe decide for itself how to resolve its own contradictions.