Stupid is as stupid does

Speaking at the end of a summit in Brussels where EU leaders started trying to pick through the wreckage after David Cameron’s referendum defeat, Mr Hollande warned that it would be unacceptable for clearing — a crucial stage in trading of derivatives and equities — to take place in the UK.

“The City, which thanks to the EU was able to handle clearing operations for the eurozone, will not be able to do them,” he said. “It can serve as an example for those who seek the end of Europe . . . It can serve as a lesson.”

Here is the FT story.  Note that London’s financial elites don’t need such a warning, whereas to the general citizenry it confirms the portrait of the EU as an anti-British regulatory tyrant.  You may recall France already tried to take clearing rights away from the UK, and that was well before the Brexit vote, so the French don’t exactly have the moral high ground here.  Nor should Hollande pretend that he can speak for the entire EU, as that personalizes the conflict in a way which is unhelpful and takes the EU further away the idea of the rule of law.  Merkel has the better instinct of simply talking to the British calmly and trying to de-escalate the issue.

One argument against Brexit, and in favor of a literal conservatism in many spheres of life, is simply that big changes can induce a lot of stupidity from the other players in the system.  Even though Hollande’s response is in some ways understandable, to pronounce it as if he is the sultan of such matters, and at such a delicate moment, is almost certainly…stupid.

Who else might do something stupid?  Putin?  Juncker?  The Dutch or Austrians?

For many international policy issues, it is worth asking the simple question: “which action or inaction of mine is likely to induce the smallest number of stupid actions in response?”  That won’t always give you the right answer, but often it is a good place to start.


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