Andrew Neil discusses EU's 'get out of jail card' in 2018
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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is languishing in the polls, even after Dominic Cummings’ explosive claims about the inner workings of Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic. It is a damning state of affairs for the former Director of Public Prosecutions, who finds himself as leader of a political party going through an existential crisis after their drubbing in the last general election was followed by defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and a disappointing performance in the local elections, too. Nevertheless, the thought of a Labour majority in Westminster is something that would “terrify” the EU, if Mr Neil’s previous comments on the subject are anything to go by.
Addressing an audience at the Centre for Independent Studies, he described how the EU made negotiations with the UK as difficult as possible to make sure “no alternative economic model takes off 20 miles north of Calais, in the fifth largest economy in the world”.
He continued: “That terrifies them: that an alternative and potentially successful economic model could be so close to mainland Europe.
“Which is why, again, they’ve played such hardball.”
In his 2018 speech, he added that EU leaders were worried about two very different economic models taking hold in Britain.
One would see the country become a haven for low taxation, while the other would be a more protectionist model advocated by Jeremy Corbyn during his time as Labour leader.
And, given that Sir Keir has adopted many of Mr Corbyn’s key policy pledges since taking over, the same fear will likely apply today.
Mr Neil continued: “It’s interesting that they’re worried about two alternative models.
“The most common one, you may have heard, is that we become Singapore West ‒ that we become a low taxation, low regulation economy and do well.
“They hate the thought of that.
“But they’re equally worried that a Corbyn Government could turn Britain into a sort of Cuba East.
“And the reason that worries them is because that would involve protection, capital controls and massive state ownership and state subsidies of industry.
“That isn’t just the policy of the European left, that’s the policy of the European hard-right.
“That’s the policy of Madame Le Pen, that’s the policy of the AfD, that’s the policy of Mr Salvini.
“So they don’t want that to happen either.”
Mr Neil was speaking at a time when the hard-right AfD party posed a serious threat to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, Matteo Salvini’s anti-EU rhetoric was striking a chord in Italy and Marine Le Pen remains the most potent threat to Emmanuel Macron’s hopes of re-election in France today.
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The former editor of The Sunday Times also argued that the combination of Leave’s victory in the 2016 referendum and Donald Trump winning the US Presidency sparked fear across European capitals over what could happen next.
But he pointed out that Brussels was handed a “get-out-of-jail card”, only leaders decided to do nothing about it.
He argued: “After Brexit in the summer of 2016 and the election of Mr Trump, Europe feared that the populist wave that produced Brexit and produced Mr Trump ‒ both of them predicted not to happen by all mainstream pundits and by all the opinion polls ‒ that Europe was in for some trouble.
“And yet it looked for a while as if Europe was going to get a get-out-of-jail card.”
Mr Neil then explained how European leaders relaxed after the re-election of Mark Rutte in the Netherlands and Emmanuel Macron’s landslide victory in France.
Mr Neil is about to set out on his latest and perhaps most ambitious venture in the media world, as chairman of GB News.
The news channel is set to launch on June 13, with Mr Neil presenting a nightly current affairs programme.
The channel’s director of news, John McAndrew, is a 25-year industry veteran who has worked for the BBC, Sky News, ITN and NBC.
He said as the launch approached: “We can sense a real hunger for something fresh and different in television news and debate.
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