Welcome to Live View – Take the tour to learn more
Start Tour
There is currently 1 person viewing this thread.
12 Dec 17 20:50
Date Joined: 13 Dec 11
| Topic/replies: 3,792 | Blogger: Burt06's blog
London is riddled with anxiety over Brexit. Barely a conversation goes by in the city that doesn’t turn into handwringing over the subject. In Brussels, by contrast, the topic hardly registers. So calm is the EU capital these days that on a recent trip, I could have spent a week without the latest round of Brexit negotiations surfacing in conversation.

But one group there doesn’t share in the bonhomie: the British technocrats who dedicated their careers to Europe’s radical project of fusing sovereign countries into a political and economic union. In interviews that often felt more like informal therapy sessions, a series of British civil servants and other professionals shared the frustration, shock, grief, and anger that for nearly 18 months have been their constant companions.

“It’s just a huge trauma,” says one longtime British official. The EU is “something we actually believe in. I’ve spent my entire career on this. Now, what the hell? It’s just a huge shock. What happens now?”
Existential angst

Brits have long been vastly under-represented in the European Commission, relative to Britain’s size in the EU. The largest group of them are civil servants that Margaret Thatcher’s government encouraged to move over so the UK would have a bigger say in the EU’s sprawling executive arm. Many are just hitting the point in their careers where they were eyeing senior positions. “That’s all been shot to pieces,” the official says.

Over a few beers in the fittingly named London Calling bar, I discover that if Brexit is a recurring topic for people in the UK, it’s utterly all-consuming for Brits in Brussels. My drinking partners say they long to get to the end of a day without discussing it—but they can’t stop themselves relitigating it. Asked how Brexit is affecting them, some begin by critiquing prime minister David Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum, way back in 2013.

Those with dual nationality from an EU country cling desperately to their second passports. Brits without a plan B fall into two groups: Those doing everything they can to dig up heritage in Ireland or elsewhere, and those trying to convince themselves that everything will be fine.

“I do that deliberately because it reduces the amount of stress for myself and my family,” says a senior EU official who slots into the latter group. “I actually think that a solution will be found for us. It might not be a good solution but… well, that’s my approach so far.”

Members of both groups have become experts on the residency requirements for Belgian citizenship. There is also a very Anglo-Saxon gallows humor: “I consider myself English, Northern, British, and European,” says one junior European Commission worker. “Now I find myself applying to become Belgian. When you’re a kid at school, do you think, ‘When I grow up, I’ll become Belgian’?”

Even if they can legally remain in Belgium, British employees of Europe’s governing institutions may not have much of a career there. Though commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said that he’ll try to protect them, almost every Brit has a story about a well-qualified compatriot being passed over for promotion.

At the same time, they feel the British government is doing little or nothing to look out for them. “There’s definitely a sense that if anybody’s on our side it’s the commission, but only to a point. We’re pretty much on our own,” says the longtime British official. “Meanwhile there are 27 member states circling and thinking, ‘How the hell are we gonna swallow a [€20 billion] budget reduction [from losing Britain’s contribution]?’ First for the chop will be the Brits.”

There’s a precedent for people spending long careers at the EU despite not having a member state. When Norway began taking steps to join the EU in the early 1990s, it sent some of its civil servants into the commission early in preparation. After Norway’s people voted not to join, however, these “Norwegian ghosts” remained stuck in limbo.

In the kind of tale of bureaucracy run amok that fills Brexiters with glee, it can be difficult to fire such people. Some are reportedly still wandering around the institutions, unable to be removed and unlikely to be promoted.

It’s not exactly an appealing option for Brits who have dedicated decades to the institution and want to keep serving it as best they can. “I don’t want to be a ghost—I want to be recognized,” sighs the senior official, who works in foreign policy, staring grimly at a cup of coffee in a café on the Schuman roundabout.

Their longing to stay in Brussels is hard to square with the immediate surroundings. Much of the city is charming; it’s sprinkled with Art Nouveau gems, and the Grand Place, with its eclectic mix of the baroque and the Gothic, is a match for any square in Europe. But Place Schuman, the heart of the EU’s institutions, is a miserable milieu. Four massive glass buildings bulge clumsily into the cloudy sky, dominating the low-rise landscape. The roads, filled with sluggish yet relentless traffic, make it impossible to get from one monolith to another at more than a dawdle. In the center stands a massive roundabout lacking any monument, benches, or grass, and populated only by harried officials scuttling across the weed-filled concrete.

When you talk to Brits in Brussels about Brexit negotiations, their pronouns become confused. The EU is almost always referred to as “we,” while the UK is sometimes “they.” Asking commission officials about divided loyalties provokes responses veering from the angry to the defiant.

“My loyalties are not remotely divided: I’m absolutely 100% pro-EU. What do you mean by divided loyalties? As a person who loves my country, Britain, and believes in Britain, I see Brexit as a fundamentally anti-British thing and incredibly dangerous for the country,” the longtime official says.

The most difficult thing to reconcile is their treatment by fellow Brits back home. “I don’t tend to admit to people I work in the EU,” says another senior official. The foreign policy official adds: “There’s a significant part of the population who treat us the way you’d treat a convicted pedophile or someone just out of jail for corruption.”

Most of their anger is directed at the British government, its haphazard approach to the negotiations, and prime minister Theresa May’s attempt to cling to power by promoting anti-EU ministers to senior cabinet roles.

“I have colleagues saying, ‘What on earth is going on in your country? This is the UK. We respected it. Your administrative structures were second to none,'” says the senior official. “I don’t have an answer: there is incredible disruption and uncertainty.”

It’s not helped by the apparently weak efforts that the British delegation to the EU, known as UKREP, has made to reassure Brits in the EU institutions that it’s looking out for them, says the longtime official:

    “All that’s happened is UKREP have come and told us absolutely nothing except what a marvellous job they’re doing [in negotiations]—as if we care. They speak as if we’re Team Britain. We’re not Team Britain… **** Team Britain. We’re so angry with the ****g government, with what they’re doing. I’m so, so angry.”

One person is the focus of much of this ire: British foreign secretary and lead Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson. Johnson was a creature of Brussels—a former correspondent there for the Daily Telegraph, who spent part of his childhood in the city when his father worked for the commission. Today, he’d be the front-runner for a most-hated-man-in-Brussels contest. “I used to stand behind him to buy sandwiches in a shop near Charlemagne [an EU building] when he worked for The Telegraph here. How the feeble have risen,” one official says.

The embarrassment isn’t just felt by Brits in the EU, but also those from other industries who live in Brussels. “When I moved to Brussels a few years ago… I had two fundamental positive beliefs about Britain: That we were less racist than most European countries and had a more competent government. Now I don’t think either of those things are true,” says a British PR person.

In a particularly odd position are the civil servants in UKREP. Most of them moved to Brussels because they enjoyed engaging with the commission; they now find themselves negotiating Britain’s departure from it and having to grapple with the chaos coming over from Westminster. One such civil servant guesses 99% of embassy staff voted to remain in the bloc. “The day after the referendum was like a zombie apocalypse—you just had people wandering round the office in a state of shock,” he says. “Definitely there were tears.”

Fascinating article.

Did anyone else know that Norwegians are been paid by our taxes to be ghosts? What private company would operate in this way? No wonder they never want the books looked at.

And as for all the crying and what have you - wellLaughGrin.

They cry for their extremely well paid jobs and pensions, they cry for the inconvenience to their lives. Well tough shiit, donkeys. They have been happy to ignore the electorate for so long and now karma has took a big bite of them. Poetic.
Pause Switch to Standard View The unbearable limbo of being a...
Show More
Report Foinavon December 12, 2017 11:58 PM GMT
When the gravy train hits the buffers.
Perhaps they will become overpaid ghosts too but at some other taxpayers' expense.
Report Wallflower December 13, 2017 12:06 AM GMT
They should relax  - their jobs are as safe as could beHappy
Report sageform December 13, 2017 8:35 AM GMT
well said Foinavon. I object to paying a share of the salary of any politician or civil servant in principle but realise that some are a necessary evil. We already pay for district, county and National Governments as well as the EU commission and the United Nations. Lets ensure that we get rid of at least one of those and then campaign for getting rid of the duplication of local Government next.
Report dave1357 December 13, 2017 10:14 AM GMT
Did anyone else know that Norwegians are been paid by our taxes to be ghosts? What private company would operate in this way? No wonder they never want the books looked at.

They are doing their jobs just like Norwegians working for any other organisation in Europe.  The EUs "books" are looked at every year.  They famous "not signed off" claim of brexiters relates to member countries abuse of EU funds.

They cry for their extremely well paid jobs and pensions, they cry for the inconvenience to their lives. Well tough shiit, donkeys. They have been happy to ignore the electorate for so long and now karma has took a big bite of them. Poetic.

I know you want them to suffer as that's the kind of man you are, but if they do lose their jobs they will get a huge pay-off and their accrued pensions will be unaffected.  If they are crying it's because their country has signalled the start of along period isolation and decline and the  "donkeys" are at home braying on twitter and forums not in Europe.
Report unitedbiscuits December 13, 2017 10:26 AM GMT
Well said, Dave. The schadenfreude informing the opening post is just ugly.
Report bigpoppapump December 13, 2017 11:01 AM GMT
They cry for their extremely well paid jobs and pensions, they cry for the inconvenience to their lives. Well tough shiit, donkeys. They have been happy to ignore the electorate for so long and now karma has took a big bite of them. Poetic.

OP: what an ar5ehole
Report treetop December 13, 2017 11:22 AM GMT
They have been rather smug and shown little concern for people who have not bought into the EU political union dream,tough.Just get on with and and get out.
Report sageform December 13, 2017 1:39 PM GMT
Please tell us how regulators contribute to GDP or how you measure their productivity.
Report Burt06 December 13, 2017 2:07 PM GMT
It is interesting to me to witness what these remain types have now been reduced to. For so many years they would smugly dismiss the majority as 'little Englanders' and other assorted insults. They had such a misguided confidence in their own superiority and felt their position was unassailable.Ignoring the majority and feathering their own nests was simply par for the course - what could ever go wrong they would smugly and falsely assume.

Well, after years of been ignored the people finally got their say. And our say is enough of this despicable corruption and anti democratic organisation. Enough of this blatant nepotism and rampant profligacy. Enough of these gallactico corruptos. We demand out and we are going to get out. As the ship sinks for the first time in history the rats are staying on board.

And meanwhile what has become of our very own remainers? What has become of the losing side? Well, they are reduced to a bitter and ever decreasing rabble of name callers. Yip, all they have left now is name calling and daily predictions and hopes of doom. They wear a sandwich board and parade up and down the high street predicting the end of the world is nigh. They sneer at every brave decision the people take as we continue on the road to 100% democracy and freedom, they insult the many blissfully unaware they are the few. They pray that we fail, unaware that freedom is only ever the winner, they snipe at every corner unaware that their bitterness is more reason than ever to reject their failed ways. And when we get to where we are going, the sunny uplands of freedom and self determination, what will they say then? Who cares.
Report moisok December 13, 2017 2:14 PM GMT
But who will keep the peace??  ho ho
Report dave1357 December 13, 2017 2:39 PM GMT
sageform 13 Dec 17 13:39 
Please tell us how regulators contribute to GDP or how you measure their productivity

Sageform, regulation becomes necessary when the market fails.  eg when industries pollute rivers so that everything in and around them dies or when criminal elements steal from people or sell them faulty products or rank foodstuffs.  All forms of law are effectively regulations.  The police are in fact regulators.  I imagine some economist or other has found a way to measure the output of a regulator after all it is a service like any other.

There is can obviously be a debate about the west exporting pollution ect to developing countries.
Report dave1357 December 13, 2017 2:45 PM GMT
bigpoppapump 13 Dec 17 14:25 
OP: what an ar5ehole

Yes his second post an even more bizarre rant than the first.
Report Chippie in Whitehall December 13, 2017 2:46 PM GMT
They wear a sandwich board and parade up and down the high street predicting the end of the world is nigh

Funny, because it's true.
Report moisok December 13, 2017 2:56 PM GMT
It is.
Report sageform December 13, 2017 7:27 PM GMT
dave I agree about the necessity of some regulators but I can't see how they contribute to GDP. Unfettered capitalism would lead to injustice, fraud and other mayhem but much regulation, particularly in the EU (and now in America if Trump has his way), is about protecting inefficient industry which actually reduces production and therefore GDP.
Report PorcupineorPineapple December 14, 2017 6:49 AM GMT
Jesus, let's laugh at British people facing losing their jobs.

If that's putting Britain first then count me out.
Report sageform December 14, 2017 9:07 AM GMT
How many of the million plus civil servants who were employed by Labour but shed by the coalition are still unemployed?
Report Burt06 December 14, 2017 3:34 PM GMT
Listen to Marta.

She is there, she knows.
Report Foinavon December 14, 2017 3:43 PM GMT
Income tax in Scotland going up. Having extra layers of government is so wonderful. Proven time and again.
Report bongo December 14, 2017 8:06 PM GMT
I think everyone agrees pollution should be either taxed or forbidden.
What people don't agree on is why we need an EU government regulating the curvature of bananas when the free market has got this covered, why the UK should have more say in what Czechs are allowed to vape than Czechs are themselves and why one law should apply to brothels ( ban them ) in every country in Europe. EU fanboys seem to think this is all good.
Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Andorra, Monaco and Iceland disagree and think these things are not the business of supranational governments.

Of course all those countries I've listed must be schitholes right because they are not taking regulations from the EU.
Report dave1357 December 14, 2017 8:46 PM GMT
Are you really still so ignorant bongo that you don't know that Norway Switzerland and Iceland have to implement EU regulations and has no say on their drafting? Also what is this EU law on brothels?  And of course you bring up bananas.

Is it a wonder that brexiters are held in contempt when they still constantly spout lies and issue death threats at politicians who oppose them.
Report sageform December 15, 2017 2:26 PM GMT
Norway choose to pay a fee to stay in the market. They can leave as soon as any current contractual agreement expires without the Brexit ballyhoo.
Report bongo December 16, 2017 7:48 PM GMT
Incorrect Dave - Norway, Switzerland and Iceland do not have to implement EU regulations that relate to farming , fisheries, home affairs, justice and many more. Issues around free movement of workers, capital, good and services - they have to conform on these. And have you noticed how prosperous those non-EU countries are?
I did not bring up bananas, I brought up the regulation of bananas, something that the market had covered with its industry standard Class I and Class II bananas long before the EU got involved and if you wanted to buy some off-spec bananas, that was fine too as long as both parties consented to the deal.
But there are people like you who believe in one-size fits all regulations and that they can only come from government - if that's what gets you hard there are 27 other countries in the EU that agree with you and you can legally live and work in - off you go.
Report dave1357 December 16, 2017 8:40 PM GMT
Glad you agree that Norway etc have to implement regulations as I said, so what was your point again?  Oh yes wealth - Monaco (on your first list) is very wealthy, oh wait they provide a facility for "residents" to rob taxpayers in various countries and good old banking secrecy Switzerland a bit dodgy on that regard as well (as are the rest of your first list).  Norway has huge energy resources and luckily doesn't have a kleptocrat like Pootin to steal it.

But there are people like you who believe in one-size fits all regulations and that they can only come from government

You have no idea what I believe about regulation and in any case virtually all EU Single market regulation has massive input from the relevant industries.  The purpose of Single market regulation is to break down barriers not create them.  If it is failing in that we can have a debate, but to simply claim on principle that the EU's harmonising of standards, to stop trade barriers, must be bad, is wrong.
Report sageform December 17, 2017 11:13 AM GMT
The point of regulation (which is often dreamed up by large corportations) is twofold.
1. To protect their market against competition from lower cost countries which can be legitimate but often isn't.
2. To make it hard for small companies to grow and therefore compete with the large ones.
I saw this at fist hand as a farmer when the animal feed companies and meat companies were constantly pressurising the NFU (representing farmers) to support regulations that would effectively put small businesses out of the market. They made sure that a monthly inspection for instance cost the same amount for a £1 million pound abattoir as for a small butcher killing 5 cattle a week and Government went along with it. Now they have introduced closed circuit TV as compulsory when the biggest operators probably already have it but the small ones will have to spend more money.
Report treetop December 17, 2017 3:26 PM GMT
And the best way to influence regulation is to spend big money wining and dining decision makers in Brussels,getting them to write the specifications around your own products.Sincemost public sector people sit behind the times they are usually only too happy to plagiarise supplier's technical data when you submit it.
Report sageform December 17, 2017 7:05 PM GMT
Ask Mr Dyson.
Report unitedbiscuits December 17, 2017 7:13 PM GMT
Glad you brought him up. This is fundamental to the country we want to live in:

Sir James Dyson, vacuum cleaners
The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner is worth up to £2.5bn and owns the £15m Dodington Park estate in Wiltshire. He set up a 1985 onshore children's trust to hold 30% of company shares. His spokesman said: "The trust was dissolved and the shares distributed to the beneficiaries." His wife and his three children, Sam, Jake and Emily (who runs a fashion shop in Notting Hill, west London), also appear as past beneficiaries of a offshore trust in the Channel Islands. The spokesman said that trust was never actually used, had no assets and had not avoided tax. In 2010, Dyson transferred shares offshore to Malta, another tax haven. Following criticism, the move is being unwound. The firm said: "Dyson is a UK owned company, and paid taxes of over £100m in 2013. The administrative companies referred to in Malta will soon be inactive." [see footnote]
Report moisok December 17, 2017 10:31 PM GMT
the people who have their nose in the trough are the ones who have access to the 'right' organs to perpetuate their own selfish interests - these are to stay in the eu.  They are very powerful and we here them continuously.  The eu has a massive ly funded propaganda department which seeks to drown out the awful naughty lot who voted leave when they were told it would never come to pass.

they need our money and trade
no wonder all this anti brexit propaganda is being spewed out relentlessly

they need to create a centralised state controlled by a few from brussels

don't fall for it
Report moisok December 17, 2017 10:33 PM GMT
up till recently guests were 80 to 20 percent  pro eu to anti eu on the bbc

sky has been the same

it is the same old anti trump, anti corbyn, anti farage, anti momentum, pro eu propaganda which they delight in feeding
to us
think about it
Report sageform December 18, 2017 4:22 PM GMT
The EU manufacturers of vacuum cleaners managed to get some Dyson products banned, not because of his tax affairs but because he was taking market share from German and Italian competitors. That is why he has always supported Brexit. Not only are the products banned from sale in the EU, but he is not allowed to make them inside the EU to sell anywhere else.
Report moisok December 18, 2017 8:55 PM GMT
even the latest poll by the independent turns out to be bogus
Post Your Reply
<CTRL+Enter> to submit
Please login to post a reply.


Instance ID: 13539