My advice to comrade Boris: never, ever, try to bluff the EU

I later took over Boris’s old job in Brussels. He asked me to write occasional snapshots from EU ground zero for the Spectator. At no time during those years did I ever detect any deviation from his core view that the EU was amassing unhealthy powers. 

He liked to joke that one day units of EU-badged border troops would be deployed to “help” smaller EU states that strayed from the righteous course. As indeed they surely will. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia know how such forces work. 

He shared my view entirely that the EU was creating an upper layer of executive government beyond accountability, with a Caesaropapist structure at odds with British democratic self-rule. …

So my advice to Boris after so many years in the trenches together is: never, ever try to bluff the EU. Your own bluff will be called with interest. That way lies abject capitulation and the pitiful fate of Syriza in Greece. …

The EU does not have the same hold over British banks but it has other ways to ratchet up the pressure. The lesson of the last decade is that the EU’s soft empire institutions have become very powerful and are no longer all that soft, usually deploying the ECB as enforcer. 

Frankfurt gave secret orders to an elected Italian government to carry out sensitive labour and fiscal reforms in 2011, and then forced it from office via a rollover crisis in the bond markets. There was no whisper of protest from the EU’s missionary press corps or Euro-MPs over this unconstitutional abuse. But that is the point. Nothing restrains the machine.

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