EXCLUSIVE / Vengeful European Commission officials have drawn up a secret punishment list for the UK if it chooses to leave the EU at the 23 June referendum on its membership of the bloc.
[Following the publication of this article, British MEPs asked EurActiv to make it clear that this is an April Fool’s prank. We thought it was obvious enough.]
Senior bureaucrats have produced an internal 9-page non-paper of measures — seen by EurActiv — that are planned to be so harsh that no other member state will ever dare to quit the EU.
“The Brits wanted special treatment,” one Luxembourgish official gloated, “well they are going to get it.”
The “revenge list” was prepared in total secrecy, under orders from the highest levels of the Commission. It will be published officially at noon later today (1 April).
EurActiv can exclusively reveal that the terms of the divorce are set to be messier than even the most ardent of arch-federalists could have dreamed.
- Swift expulsion of British officials in the EU institutions on “security and data protection” grounds;
- Refusal to negotiate free trade agreements with the UK, and the imposition of trade tariffs;
- Carte blanche for member states to restrict British nationals’ ability to live and work in the EU;
- Support for Spain’s claim over Gibraltar;
- A raft of measures to boost institutional use of French and German, at the cost of English;
- Withdrawal of British eligibility for Interail and ERASMUS placements;
- A ban on BBC period dramas on the grounds of protecting European cultural identity ;
- Measures to isolate the City of London and shift the EU’s financial hub to Frankfurt or Paris;
- Deportation of British criminals in EU prisons to Turkey, in exchange for refugees.
“Cameron thinks he can play hardball with the EU – well the EU is going to hit him hard,” said one Irish official, referring to the British Prime Minister’s tactic of using of threat of Brexit to bring EU reform.
“We got the idea after binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix,” he added.
EU: Better off without the Brits
The executive plans a multi-million euro propaganda war to story up its shaken foundations and reassert the European project.
In a move sure to enrage London, part of the bill for the campaign will be picked up by the British taxpayer through the UK’s last contribution to the EU Budget.
The working slogan for the media blitz is “EU: Better off without the Brits.” EurActiv understands that storyboards for several YouTube videos, fact sheets and infographics have been drawn up.
British citizens would face “asymmetrical restrictions” on their ability to live and work in EU countries, the paper says.
This implies, a source explained, that individual countries such as the new EU members would feel free to slam heavy restrictions on UK nationals and businesses.
This will go hand-in-hand with “concentrated outreach” to lure international banks and finance centres away from London.
The City operates under uniform EU rules, which allows Britain to export financial services worth more than £20bn, or 1.1% of GDP, to the EU.
“Since Brexit, Britain won’t be being the sick man of Europe, it will be being the dead man of Europe,” said a high-ranking German source.
“It will hurt the Eurozone, yes. But you can’t underestimate the good feeling about the EU this will create.”
EurActiv understands that EU documents will still be translated into English, but using American rather than British spelling.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a “go-slow” approach on translation into English would be adopted. “They will be given the same level of priority as, let’s say, Maltese,” he said.
How will it happen?
The European Commission has a policy of not commenting on leaks. But officials contacted by EurActiv stressed that the revenge list was a draft internal document.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” said one official, who is French, “But It’s no secret that political will for this exists. “
In the event of a Brexit vote, the UK will trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. But the negotiations on withdrawal will be made purposefully tough and bureaucratic.
“Imagine registering as a resident at a commune in Brussels,” said one Latvian fonctionaire, “this is going to be ten times worse.”
EU leaders will meet in Brussels for their 27-28 June summit, to be held just days after the vote.
In event of Brexit, the Commission will propose that Cameron (who could resign in the event of a No vote, but still would represent the country in a caretaker capacity), should not attend the full meeting.
The executive would like to make proposals to the 27 heads of state and government in the absence of the UK representative.
Commission officials confided they expected the “enthusiastic support” of many MEPs “especially Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt”.
- The full Commission document can be accessed here.