Monday, 24 July 2017

Could Stopping Brexit Be As Messy As Brexit Itself?

The Just Political Party has been campaigning to stop Brexit.  But something this morning stopped us in our tracks.  An article in the Financial Times titled "An exit from Brexit would prove a messy affair"

Lord Kerr, who wrote Article 50, has long said that Article 50 can be revoked unilaterally by the UK if we want to stop Brexit. He continues to urge us to do so.

However the EU disagrees. Their website very clearly says  "...once triggered, it cannot be unilaterally reversed. Notification is a point of no return. Article 50 does not provide for the unilateral withdrawal of notification."  Indeed revocation isn't mentioned in Article 50 (or elsewhere) because no country like the UK that wants an ongoing relationship with the EU was ever expected to leave.

So who is right?  The problem is that it may well have to be resolved in Court, if one side or the other doesn't give way.  

The FT article suggests "Any request to revoke Article 50 requires European Council consent 

But isn't it in the interests of the EU to give way, to protect the trade with the UK and the monies the UK puts into the EU pot?  Their budget is in a bit of a pickle without those monies. As such the UK does have the upper hand in any Stop Brexit negotiation.

However, should European Council consent be needed, the FT article argues that the EU would hold the upper hand, and could demand various concessions.  That might include removal of various opt-outs, or removal of the significant rebate that Margaret Thatcher negotiated.

Maybe the EU would insist on the UK leaving and then re-applying.  That could well mean having to adopt the Euro.  Would the British public stomach that as a condition of re-entry?

The FT article goes on to conclude "an exit from Brexit is no longer an option"  Really? Frankly this should have been all sorted and clearly understood before the Article 50 notification was made. But in the UK, the political mood was for Brexit, despite a fairly flimsy Leave majority that was prone to reversal.

I would like to think the EU value the UK enough, for our trade and monetary contributions, to welcome us back with open arms should the UK choose to stop Brexit. But maybe not.  

In any case, with the UK set to fall off the cliff of leaving the EU without an ongoing agreement in March 2019, any revocation needs to be sooner rather than later to allow for subsequent negotiations.  

Apart from anything else, computer systems would need to be amended for any new cross-border tariffs and non-tariff requirements.  That can't be done quickly and is a real risk to the UK's imports and exports with the EU, even if similar to trade with the rest of the world.. 

What do you think?  Any lawyers out there?

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