A Riddle wrapped up in an Enigma

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"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Winston Churchill in October 1939.

Can this quote be applied to the present day United Kingdom and the current situation of Brexit? I doubt that Churchill would have said “The key is British national interest” because as we will see nothing is further from the truth!

When two profound experts on European and International Affairs, the eminent former Ambassadors Colin Munro CMG and Dr Alexander Christiani mount the podium then you are guaranteed an absolutely spell binding lecture, a tour de force of political, historical and sociological insight in these murky waters of deceit called Brexit.

Colin Munro, a former UK Ambassador, Board Member of the Austro-British Society and Chairman of the United Kingdom Citizens in Europe, an outspoken critic of Brexit, having returned from a recent lecture tour on that subject in Germany shared with us in a humorous way his considerable knowledge of the current seemingly insoluble dilemma the British are faced with.

Dr Alexander Christiani, former Austrian Ambassador to the Court of St James, Vice-President of the Austro-British Society and Author of the intellectual ABS Policy Papers of which No 10 is being published just in time for Christmas, also a fierce critic of Brexit, outlined the considerable complicated reasons that lead to the current conundrum, which can be found in British Geography, History and to no small extent in the Hostility towards Europe by the British yellow press.

What did we glean in these ninety minutes of talk and discussions? That to some extent ignorance of reality and “a breathtaking arrogance England’s” towards Ireland and the EU fuelled by a retrogressive emotionalism make for an intoxicating concoction paralysing rational thinking, which is so bitterly needed by a people once the shining example of pragmatism. A society deeply divided on all issues, demonstrating a deep mistrust of the “European Project”, clinging to British Pride of Old Glory.

What next? The “meaningful vote” is due to be applied by the Commons in the week commencing 14 January 2019. “Meaningful Vote” is the common name given to Section 13 of the United Kingdom’s “European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018”. But nobody really knows, what happens then, least of all the British. The probabilities range from an orderly withdrawal to a “No Deal” with catastrophic consequences resulting in chaos on both sides of the Channel. The likelihood for a Hard Brexit appears to be dangerously high, with the “enemy within”, notably in the Tory-Party and the DUP, hell-bent opposed to the so-called “Backstop”, risking ultimately a hard boarder between the Republic of Ireland (EU) and Northern Ireland (UK), thus re-opening Pandora’s Box of former bloodshed.

Finally, if you need the thrill of an ice-cold shiver running down your spine then just take note of a BBC “Breaking News” item circulated by a good soul during last night’s lecture: The government announced that in the event of a No-Deal Brexit 3600 troops will be on stand-by! Brave New World!

Taking comfort, however, in the by now traditional Café Ministerium hospitality of tasty dishes and excellent wines, we enjoyed each others company in a “meaningful” conversation until it was time to leave. I look forward to meeting you all again on Thursday, 20 December in the British Embassy for our Pre-Christmas Party!

Wolfgang Geißler 


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