Friday, 4 August 2017

Brexit: The Democratic Way Forward

Whether you voted Leave or Remain, this post takes a pragmatic view.

"End Brexit squabbles and nail down transitional deal" is the newspaper headline today for an Institute of Directors report, written from a business perspective.

John Longworth, co-Chairman of "Leave Means Leave", has responded with ten tweets consistent with the normal Brexiter arguments. To quote his key points, which need a reply:
  • "This IoD report is advocating remaining in the EU and is a direct attack on democracy."
  • "The transition options proposed are an insult to our intelligence and would constitute a fraud on the electorate."
  •  "If trade deal can't be agreed by end Q1 '18, we should walk away." That's only six months from now, and a year before March 2019 when the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU
  • "Notion that UK continues to be dictated to by ECJ is complete rejection of Brexit the British people voted for only last year."
Let's taken a more pragmatic view, whether you voted Leave or Remain on three key issues he mentions:
  1. Democracy
  2. Walking away from negotiations
  3. The European Court of Justice (ECJ).


Firstly it's best to consider the Referendum as a 'starting gun'.  It was clear then, and even clearer now after the recent YouGov poll, that although some people are prepared to be poorer as a result of Brexit, the vast majority are not.  A project like Brexit needs to be kept under review, and if necessary alternative action taken.  Especially if the outlook would be to make the country poorer.

The fact that the result was marginal 52:48 not a clear 60:40 say, and won in dubious circumstances, adds to the need for a flexible approach.

Provided that the review is "democratic", it is not an attack on democracy, nor is it a fraud on the electorate.  MPs are our elected representatives, and need to be reviewing Brexit progress on our behalf.  If another referendum is needed, so be it. 

But a second referendum to be done when the negotiated terms are known is not necessarily the right approach. As many have said, this could encourage the EU to set worse terms in the hope of rejection, or the other option could by then be worse. A second referendum should be when and if needed, perhaps as early as Spring 2018, with two realistic options.


Walking away from negotiations with the EU means using World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.  There are masses of schedules for the different products.  For each one where there is mention of the EU and a quantity, that would have to be split between UK and EU27.  New Zealand lamb for example, who far prefer the flexibility of the EU28 arrangement.  There's substantial negotiation required, and that could take years.  What in the interim?  One year from "Spring '18" to March 2019, is unlikely to be enough.

Wherever else there is collaboration within the EU, new arrangements will need to be set up, either separately in the UK or by new collaboration agreements.  Some 20 new organisations are being planned in the UK.  These all take time.

Then any change will need changes to systems.  These will be at the UK borders, within businesses and for the new organisations.  Again a year is unlikely to be enough to have stable, effective systems in place.  Two to three years is more realistic.  That's how long it took to make changes to avoid Y2K problems in larger important organisations, and in most cases that wasn't making additional changes to functionality.

Let's be realistic.  Just walking away is not an option.


John says "Notion that UK continues to be dictated to by ECJ is complete rejection of Brexit the British people voted for only last year."

Actually in my experience, it was only the anti-EU Brexiters who saw the ECJ specifically as an issue.  For other Leavers, perhaps you could argue that the ECJ is all part of "taking back control", but a bigger issue is in play.

Another YouGov poll just out suggests support for Leave and Remain is still roughly 50:50.  For this people are taking account of a basket of underlying factors, economic and non-economic.. 

But the very recent  ComRes poll for the BBC has come to the following more detailed conclusions when looking at specific factors.  These will help to fashion Brexit going forward:

Which should be the priority for the British Government when negotiating the UK's withdrawal from the EU?
  • 66% Maintaining access to the single market so Britain can have free trade with the EU 
  • [whereas only] 31% Restricting the freedom of movement so immigration from the EU is reduced

The single market, trade and the economy is the biggest concern, echoing the YouGov poll mentioned above. Most people don't want to be poorer.

The single market has to have an ultimate court to resolve disputes, whether that is the ECJ, or the existing court for the European Economic Area (which is the EU plus Norway and 2 others).  That is a fact of life.


Whether you voted Leave or Remain:
  • Most people do not want to be poorer, they want continued access to the Single Market.  Like it or not that means an ultimate court to resolve disputes.
  • Walking away from the EU talks is not an option, as there wouldn't be time to put essential agreements and systems in place. A transition period is thus also essential if Brexit goes ahead. as many tasks can only start in earnest once the deal is known.
  • The Referendum was a 'starting gun'.  It is democratic and indeed essential to keep Brexit progress under review.  It is not an attack on democracy if elected MPs are involved and a second referendum takes place as and when needed if a major change of tack is proposed.
How can all the public's competing priorities be resolved?  In the absence of an acceptable Brexit option, then we need to Stop Brexit.  But that's not necessarily easy legally or politically.

Given the high public support for maintaining access to the Single Market, but the general aversion to the existing EEA, we also ought to take a closer look at a different two-tier Europe..  That would be with the UK and others out of the Eurozone and out of the EU proper in a revised Single Market.  Perhaps something like this - click here.

This two-tier idea is not the EEA 'as is'  If something like the two-tiers proposed isn't possible in reasonable timescales, then there is only one option.  To meet the needs of the majority of the people according to the YouGov and ComRes polls it is to #StopBrexitThe Government should take heed.

No comments:

Post a Comment