Britain is in a tizzy. Brexit was a long divorce process, where Europe tried to hang on to the relationship but within two weeks of the breakup became an angry, jilted lover. The United Kingdom left with a final French kiss and packed up some sauerkrauts from the now-sour krauts. Europe screamed, “I hate you! Don’t leave me! J’adore!” before playing Gloria Gaynor. “Go on now go, walk out ze door!”
Lady Europe was out for revenge. She couldn’t bear us becoming hot, single and ready to mingle. (Maybe “hot” is an exaggeration. It happened amidst an English winter, with its miserable permacloud. We should have taken the Spanish sunshine.)
Our ex, the buxom Madam Europe, tried to lure us back, but we were already flirting with America. We didn’t care if it meant jumping into the White House bed with Trump or Biden, as long as we could rest our head on the pillow for sweet American dreams, enjoy bottomless cups of coffee, plentiful supplies of Coke (or Pepsi) and have a nice place to dunk our donuts.
Meanwhile, back in Europe, Brexit immediately morphed into a disagreement over COVID-19 vaccines. Britain rapidly produced Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines and paid for 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from a factory in Belgium several months before the European Union ordered its own supply. European plants were slow in producing the AstraZeneca vaccines and even slower placing orders from Pfizer. The E.U. moved with the speed of an ocean liner compared to Britain’s speedboat, which raced ahead. England isn’t usually this competent.
This divergence has poured oil on the bonfire of an ugly divorce. Dr. Peter Liese, a senior member of the European Parliament (MEP) from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party, wanted to stop the British-bound vaccine exports from Belgium, threatened Britain with a trade war, and said “the UK better think twice” and that “if we see Europe is not treated well, not by the United States and not by the UK, then we have to show our weapons…you will suffer for this.”
Germany threatening Britain and attempting to control another nation? This was a major factor when many, many residents of Great Britain voted to leave the union. British sovereignty is central to our national identity, and the Germans tried to dominate us twice last century.
The lead up to the Brexit vote in June 2016 was a time of inner conflict. Most of my close friends were “remainers,” voting to stay within the European Union. They saw post-EU Britain becoming an economic wasteland, unable to survive outside of the alliance. Yet Britain’s exit was like a sudden weight loss, a winner of “The Biggest Loser,” shedding the flab of European legislative red tape that demands decisions are made by its 27 member states, a process that takes time, effort and bags full of wasted Euros.
The vote happened, “remainers” lost, and the British message to the mainland was a polite auf widersehn et vaffanculo.
But the only way to prevent the United Kingdom from receiving its vaccines — apart from violating a treaty — would be to draw a hard border between European member state Eire (the southern half of the country of Ireland) and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Keeping Ireland borderless was an essential part of the Brexit agreement since many years of Irish border unrest finally ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. For the most part, peace reigns, and every day since then has been St. Patrick’s Day, although you may have to switch euros for pounds if you drive across the border to stock up Guinness.
Sometimes, a jilted lover acknowledges that the relationship was just not meant to be. We like German MEP Dr. Gunmar Beck, who saw the foolishness of his college Dr Liese and acknowledged “how you Brits must be breathing a sigh of relief that your lives are no longer run by bungling European bureaucrats.” What a nice man. The Inuits have 50 words for snow; Jews have 27 words for complaining; Germans have 12 types of sausage. We must invite him over for some schnapps, bratwurst and a little wiener schnitzel.
Sometimes, a jilted lover acknowledges that the relationship was just not meant to be.
French President Macron claimed on January 29 that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” for elderly people. He sounded quasi-bitter about European’s vaccine headache. I wasn’t thrilled either. My 76-year-old father had just received his first AstraZeneca jab, and then he received this second jab from Macron, who may have just been preparing a marketing push for the French-based Sanofi vaccine, which has yet to be approved.
Fortunately, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditched the whole thing and apologized to Boris Johnson. Apology accepted. When this is over, let’s all meet on the Irish border and have an international whiskey tasting along with a good old-fashioned bar fight.