Bernard Ingham: The EU will blink first if we hold our nerve on Brexit – here’s why

President Donald Tusk has enraged Brexiteers like Sir Bernard Ingham.
President Donald Tusk has enraged Brexiteers like Sir Bernard Ingham.
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FELLOW Brexiteers, be not alarmed about your fate. This is par for the EU course as we approach the last tee of Brexit.

It usually comes more or less right in the end, though it may not emerge until the eve of March 29 when we are due to leave.

President Donald Tusk with Theresa May.

President Donald Tusk with Theresa May.

President Donald Tusk’s promising us the fires of Hades is a sure sign the Brussels bureaucracy is rattled.

I have been there many times in my 16 years’ direct experience of EU relations up to 1990 – and it has only got worse since.

Margaret Thatcher was called “a fish wife” when she asked for her money back – i.e. a rebate on Britain’s excessive contribution – at the Dublin summit in 1979. The two Helmuts – Chancellor Schmidt and Kohl – either fell asleep as she spoke or, in Kohl’s case, sought 
early solace in cream buns in a restaurant in his Rhineland home town of Diedesheim.

The Irish, in the form of Charles Haughey, ostentatiously played hard to get in Rhodes and Guilio Andreotti, the Italian PM, was always looking for a chance to bounce the Brits as he did
in Rome in 1990 over further EU integration.

EU behaviour towards the UK is based on an inferiority complex which has its roots in Waterloo (or perhaps Crécy and Agincourt), and is immensely influenced by the Second World War.

I doubt whether the French will ever forget the Duke of Wellington’s triumph over Bonaparte’s effort to colonise Europe by force. After the Second World War, they pulled the strings in Europe until Germany shook off some of its wartime guilt with the fall of the Berlin Wall and its reunification.

The EU’s approach to Brexit is entirely understandable. Nothing would soothe their troubled breasts more than frustrating our contracting out of their entirely undemocratic attempt to build a United States of Europe or making life difficult for us.

Some would say they have so far succeeded and that the arrogance of Tusk, Jean-Claude Junker, Michel Barnier, French President Emmanuel Macron and to some extent German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proof that they think they have got us where they want us.

It is a grave delusion. Indeed, I suspect that deep down they know that by March 29 they will have to cobble together a reasonable divorce settlement or be condemned for their irresponsibility in a fragile world.

Theresa May’s task is to stick with demanding they stop messing about and come up with a clean break with the minimum of disruption. Call me what you will, but deliver.

The reason we are where we are is quite simply because of the Euro-federalists’ aim to create a United States of Europe without the consent of the EU’s 500m electors.

Britain is the first to say ‘enough is enough’ but the continent is restive, partly because of the dire effects of a single currency that has impoverished its southern states. Political unrest stalks the mainland and not least France and Germany.

It would be ironic if the elite’s empire- building were to result in a fragmented and nationalist continent.

We may think that Mrs May is not robust enough in her dealing with these misguided folk. She is certainly not as tough as I would be, unless she is consciously running the whole issue into the buffers. If she is, she has undoubtedly one advantage: her behaviour is impeccable and nobody is quite clear 
just what she is up to.

My one regret in retirement is that I am not going to Brussels regularly – as I did with Mrs Thatcher – in a minority of 11-1 (now inevitably 27-1).

I used to tell an inquiring media – 
and at Commonwealth summits where the UK was in a minority of 53-1 – that being beleaguered is a wonderful 
feeling when you know you are 
right.

Britain has long borne an expensive cross in the form of what has become the EU and historically I am sure Mr Tusk’s special place in hell will be reserved for them, not Brexiteers, if they mishandle our departure.

They – or more accurately France
and Germany – now hold the whole caboodle together only by corruption through the cash they throw at lesser European fry.

The challenge to them today is to recognise where their federalism is taking them. These benighted people need to rethink their European concept – just as Mrs Thatcher advised them to in 1988.