On Wednesday, England lost its semi-final World Cup game against Croatia. Reason enough for those obsessed by Brexit, and having lost the argument in 2016, to get out and moralise based on a sport. It doesn’t take much reading to understand how the question of “why do they hate us” answers itself.
After the chances of the Croatian football team looked promising for a qualification for the final against France, EU Commission Secretary General Martin Selmayr took to Twitter to let off this particular reaction:
Needless to say, hundreds of people responded with disappointment, including British eurosceptic MEP Steven Woolfe, who tweeted:
The tweet was even received with disapproval by prominent House of Lords Remainer Andrew Adonis, who wasn’t able to completely put his anger into words:
Of course, there couldn’t be any worse author of this particular tweet than Martin Selmayr. After the crisis involving the more than dubious appointment to his current position by Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, #SelmayrGate become emblematic of the feeling of corruption in the existence of a European “deep state” in Brussels. The German bureaucrat is by far the most unelected of influential lawmakers, and considered to be Juncker’s right hand. Because Selmayr did not meet the standard necessary for the appointment to SecGen, requiring a candidate to have first served as Deputy Secretary General, Juncker appointed him to the latter position on paper before immediately promoting him to his current title. Worst of all, he got away with it.
Being so smug as to mock English football supporters for the fact that only EU member states are left in the competition is incredibly childish, and doesn’t reflect what you’d expect from serious lawmakers. If Selmayr’s intention was to do the EU another immense disfavour, he managed magnificently with this tweet, for which he has yet to apologise.
But of course, there is a wide range of EU fanatics actually endorsing the idea of priding themselves in the achievements of national teams, selling it as an EU performance. It’s certainly a curious approach, given that just as many football supporters would feel inclined to connect the competition with NATO membership.
Surely, the spirit of competitive sporting events is preserved with this sort of mindset.
Far nastier than the ridiculous exclamations of anonymous federalist ideologues was the internal European Parliament email sent out by British Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder ( the only British Liberal Democrat to sit in the European Parliament). In an attempt to politicise the England football team, she pointed out that a majority of the players did have a foreign migration background. Curious once again, considering that the idea of judging people by their country of origin is not an argument one would typically expect coming from “centrist” parliamentarians.
This is all in line with most things we’ve heard coming out of Brussels–or from Remain supporters, for that matter–since the vote in June of 2016. We’ve heard Jean-Claude Juncker suggest that the English language is losing its importance, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier demand that the Brexit negotiations to be held in French, EU Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt telling former Brexit secretary David Davis “Welcome to hell” after the vote, and other instances of complete disrespect. In fact, it seems as if the attempt in Brussels is to find the most destructive way possible to communicate with the British authorities.
But conflating their political dream with the banality of a football game? That is certainly a new low. Football aspires to be above politics and bring people together despite their national differences. Take the example of Belgium: the support for the Belgian national team is pretty much the only occasion on which both the Flemish and the Walloons share a feeling of national pride that they can identify with (even if it is a low bar to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in whatsoever). Making their joy about the negotiation of two major trading blocs, and exploiting the success of a sports team for smug political point-scoring, reflects just how awful the current political class in Brussels really is.
This article was published by Values4Europe.
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