- We know a lot of think tanks spread negative disinformation about Brexit. The shocking thing about Bruegel group, one of those anti-Brexit think tanks, is that it receives funding from … the UK government.
- Our analysis shows that Bruegel’s Brexit research is biased and embarrassingly low quality, and that the group was created by ex-EU commissioners to advance the political project of EU integration – to which Brexit poses an existential threat.
- In this post, we examine how the UK’s secretive membership of Bruegel is part of a wider narrative of deep pro-EU sympathies within the UK elite – encompassing the civil service, politicians and the press – which is currently seeking to undermine the UK’s attempt to escape from the EU.
- Despite their mediocrity, Bruegel’s anti-Brexit pieces work very well as propaganda. Its work is used more by the House of Lords than by any other European national assembly and is extensively quoted by the BBC and UK newspapers. Through Bruegel, the EU has managed to make UK politicians and mainstream media slavishly parrot its propaganda.
How did Bruegel come to be funded by nineteen EU states, including the UK, acting in syndicate? Bruegel, as outlined in another post, state that there were “negotiations” between the think tank and EU member states. Nothing more. We therefore don’t know anything about how the UK, specifically, came to agree to fund Bruegel. Who made the decision? How did they justify it? Searches, including in the House of Commons library online, have so far yielded nothing. A document probably exists, somewhere, but it does not seem to be available to the general public. The UK’s “negotiation” seems to have been incredibly secretive. Almost as if those involved had something to hide …
What we do know is that the Prime Minister of the UK at the time it joined Bruegel was – few will be surprised to learn – none other than
war criminal liberal interventionist, open borders and mass migration advocate and messianic EUrophile Tony Blair (the distinction between Blair and the UK civil service Mandarins’ “EUrophile” support for the EU as centralising political entity and a “Europhile” affection for the culture and people of Europe, which characterises most Brexit supporters I know, is deliberate). And the head of the civil service at the time was Gus O’Donnell, who recently likened Brexit supporting MPs to snake oil salesmen. Blair during his time in office was responsible for a number of subterfuges, among them:
- The dodgy dossier which took the UK into the Iraq war
- The treaty of Nice
- Downplaying the impact of the opening up of the UK to migration from the new EU states in 2004, the year of Bruegel’s foundation
The UK’s Bruegel membership is almost certainly another piece of deception to add to Blair’s long list.
In this, the Bruegel group epitomises the EU’s dysfunctionality: the declarations and principles which accompanied its foundation, such as the Franco-German declaration (analysed here), sound anodyne on the face of it. But the implementation has been carried out in smoke filled rooms by faceless bureaucrats, with the general public kept in the dark. There is no accountability whatsoever for the decision. Only insiders with deep expertise in the Byzantine machinations of the EU can understand what’s going on. And those insiders use this secrecy to their advantage, just as the UK’s Mandarins have done – in order to keep funding Bruegel’s EU propaganda.
The secrecy shrouding the UK’s continued funding of anti-Brexit propaganda outlet Bruegel is of a piece with the behavior of the UK’s civil service in its current
sabotage implementation of Brexit. The announcement of Theresa May’s Chequers proposal and later of the Withdrawal Agreement she signed with the EU revealed that civil servants, in particular May’s chief adviser Olly Robbins, had ignored the proposals of Brexit supporting cabinet ministers like David Davis, Minister for exiting the EU, and pushed for a softer, more EU-friendly version of Brexit:
Moreover, former EUrophile civil servants brazenly attempted to disparage Davis (and other Brexit supporting cabinet members) for their lack of influence on the Brexit negotiations – deliberately ignoring the fact that they were prevented from exercising any such influence by those civil servants’ Remain supporting former colleagues:
For those of you who are too low information to understand the way civil service luminaries like the exalted Mr Fraser speak, here is a rough translation:
- “Terrible” = Brexit supporting
- “Could hardly be bothered to go to Brussels” = was sidelined by Theresa and my mate Olly
- “Rapidly lost respect” = didn’t bend over when asked to by Michel Barnier
- “Preposterous for him now to suggest” = how dare he tell the truth?
- “They spent months waiting to engage” = they spent months refusing to capitulate
Indeed, Ian Birrell, an excellent journalist who opposes Brexit, spotted a UK civil servant telling an EU ambassador that the UK’s choice was May’s Brexit in name only or staying in the EU. Heads, you stay in the EU, tails you don’t leave, that’s how the Mandarins have approached Brexit:
The UK’s initial membership of Bruegel was, it’s almost certain, a decision by the UK’s EUrophile civil service Mandarins, encouraged by Tony Blair. Its continued membership is also, it’s almost certain, a decision by the more recent crop of EUrophile UK civil service Mandarins, like Simon Fraser or Olly Robbins. Its membership, both initial and current, is emblematic of the secretive way the Mandarins negotiate behind their masters’ – that is the voters’ – backs. And it is a caricatural embodiment of the way those Mandarins have attempted to define Brexit according to their Europhile ideology, in total disdain for the wishes of the voters who pay their inflated salaries.
Lord Bruegel of Brussels
Bruegel’s influence extends beyond the civil service and into the supposed elite of the British legislature. Pages 32 and 33 of Bruegel’s 2016 annual report – covering the year of the Brexit vote – give a lengthy list of “expert” testimony given by the think tank to government institutions, including several to the UK’s House of Lords:
British taxpayers would be justified in wondering why the House of Lords saw fit to spend two sessions studying the completion of European monetary union in 2016 – why is this a subject of interest to their Lordships? Perhaps they mean to take the UK into the Euro?
Almost all of the twenty testimonies listed in Bruegel’s 2016 annual report are to the European Parliament, the European Council of Minister’s ECOFIN and a European Commission working group, with the only exceptions being their Lordships and … one single testimony to the French Senate! In other words, their Lordships were the most enthusiastic national users of Bruegel’s “research” in 2016. But the third Bruegel testimony to the House of Lords highlighted in the 2016 annual report stands out, that which they gave on the very subject of the impact of Brexit on the City (this flimsy analysis is taken apart in another post):
This testimony is acknowledged on page 46 of the Lords’ influential report on financial services post-Brexit, which is one of the most widely quoted pieces of work on Brexit and the City by UK mainstream media.
2017 was no different. The UK was the biggest recipient among national assemblies of Bruegel’s 17 “Parliament Testimonies” with three testimonies:
Again, the majority of Bruegel’s testimonies were to the European Parliament (10), with one testimony given to each of the Malta parliament, Germany’s Bundestag, and Holland’s Tweede Kamer and a “speech at an event organised by the Croatian parliament.” The UK, the year after the Brexit vote, sought Bruegel’s advice more than any other EU nation. Incredible. This is clearly yet another example of their Lordships’ pro-European bias.
The House of Commons library contains many “Brexit reading lists” which cite Bruegel:
Why is an organisation with such a precise and controversial political agenda relied upon by the British legislature to provide objective commentary and research? It’s no wonder that the UK government is stealthily attempting to keep the UK in the EU defence union:
BBC: Bruegel Broadcasting Corporation
It is unlikely that, apart from the author of this blog, anyone has endured the grim task of reading through Bruegel’s vacuous research in detail. Most journalists, however, due perhaps to their lack of understanding of finance, or because it tells them what they want to hear, or due to time pressure, have simply regurgitated the think tank’s headline forecast (part of which isn’t a forecast, as outlined in the detailed review of Bruegel’s work) of 30,000 job losses in the City due to Brexit – without reading a line of what backs the headline up.
The BBC frequently refers to Bruegel publications and features Bruegel researchers as expert witnesses. Mark Mardell’s recent reference to Bruegel’s director Guntram Wolff, as the “insider’s insider” (quoted at the top of our post on Bruegel as an organisation), epitomises the BBC’s reverence for Bruegel. Indeed, BBC presenter Ritula Shah on the 24 March 2017 edition of the World Tonight devoted an entire edition to the question “Can the EU survive another 60 years?” The issue was discussed by “a panel of insiders and critics” (my emphasis), with Bruegel’s director Guntram Wolff featuring as one of the “insiders.” The BBC’s use of Wolff as an “insider” is clearly something of an insider secret within the organisation.
Maria Demertzis, Wolff’s deputy at Bruegel, is often featured on the BBC too, most recently regarding her call for a second referendum:
Here is link to a clip of her telling the BBC how it is in the EU’s interest to give the UK a good deal. What she regards as a good deal for the UK of course involves remaining within the EU’s orbit of regulatory influence.
Bruegel’s co-founder Jean Pisani-Ferry has been much interviewed recently on Radio 4’s Today programme about his protégé Emmanuel Macron’s unpopularity, as vividly embodied by the Gilets Jaunes protests, though, interestingly, without mentioning his Bruegel connection. Mishal Huseyin, for example, described him as “A former chief adviser to Emmanuel Macron and professor of economics at Sciences Po” (4/12/2018) in a discussion with the Guardian’s Angélique Chrisafis, which tried to understand just how the BBC’s beloved Macron could have become so unpopular. Less than a week later, with the Gilets Jaunes protests intensifying and the BBC’s beloved Macron looking even more beleaguered, Martha Kearney introduces him in almost identical terms: “former chief adviser to Emmanuel Macron, he’s now president [sic!] of economics at the influential Sciences Po, the Paris institute of political studies” (10/12/2018).
Kearney’s seemingly clumsy mistake in calling Pisani-Ferry “president” of the Sciences Po academic institute, where most of France’s leading politicians and civil servants (including Macron lui meme) are formed, and which doesn’t have presidents, rather than “professor,” is perhaps a Freudian slip in which she acknowledges the extent to which “president” Macron is Pisani-Ferry’s puppet and a creature of the constellation of interests which has Bruegel at its center. How ironic then that neither she nor Husayin acknowledge Pisani-Ferry as the founder of the “insider’s insider” institute. Bruegel’s influence on the BBC seems to be as much of an insider story as its funding by the British government.
Read all about it in the Daily Bruegel
The Guardian, as we have seen elsewhere, cites the forecast of job losses in the City due to Brexit as if Bruegel were some kind of authority.
Having established the utter flimsiness of Bruegel’s argumentation and demonstrated its clear political bias, we can revisit the use made of this organisation by the British press, which has adopted Bruegel’s forecast without an ounce of critical analysis. A serious journalistic approach might have consisted in framing Bruegel’s remarks in the light of their backers and political affiliations, saying something like “EU government and large corporation funded pro-European integration think tank Bruegel, whose board and management are dominated by EU central bankers and commissioners.” They might also have, briefly, qualified the forecasts: “… estimates that 30,000 jobs might leave the City of London, 10,000 of which is based on unspecified ‘discussions’ with industry participants, 20,000 of which is based on an arbitrary figure of 5%.” Of course, that would rather undermine the news value of the 30,000 figure.
Why does the MSM rely on the image Bruegel projects of itself, rather than, as we have done, investigating the controversial forces behind the group, even cursorily? The civil service, the House of Lords, the House of Commons and the British mainstream media’s shameless parroting of Bruegel’s biased and shallow research provides a revealing insight into an elite “insider” network that despises Brexit voters – and is attempting to sabotage Brexit.