This article was first published in Moraymint Chatter and we re-publish with the kind permission of the author.
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[Part 1 was published here yesterday]
The EU Referendum Result Reaction
Let’s set aside for now the oft-espoused Remain argument that those 17.4 million of us who voted Leave didn’t know what we were voting for; were duped by fake news and manipulated by outrageous lies; are racists; are bigoted, xenophobic Little-Englanders; are uneducated old gits screwing up the future for the young etc. As someone who voted Leave, who knows people who voted Leave (about half the people I know, funnily enough) and who has looked carefully at the plethora of post-Referendum voting analyses, the fact is that the Leave vote was won by a majority of people for whom recovering the UK’s sovereignty was the overriding deciding factor. It’s important to bear this in mind.
‘They must go on voting until they get it right’
José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
2004 – 14
It’s important also to bear in mind that the British people weren’t being asked to vote on a type of withdrawal from the European Union, ie a ‘hard Brexit’ or a ‘soft Brexit’ or a ‘deep and special relationship’ or a ‘Norway option’ or a ‘Canada-Plus option’ or any option other than to leave the European Union: namely to leave the Customs Union, the Single Market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Only since the Referendum result became known has the losing side coined a raft of terms supposedly to define ‘Leave’, but which in fact are designed to confuse, impugn and undermine the true meaning of Leave – which means Leave.
‘The UK belongs to the EU’
President of the European Parliament
2014 – 17
General Election 2017
As David Cameron disappeared over the horizon, the Conservative Party anointed Theresa May as Prime Minister, a Remain-voting MP. She in turn appointed a Cabinet comprising a majority of Remain-voting ministers. At that moment, as far as the UK’s relationship with the EU was concerned, the beliefs of the nation’s political leadership team were crystallised into the polar opposite of those of the majority of the British electorate. The seeds of Brexit failure were being sown from the outset.
Badly advised, Prime Minister May then called a General Election expecting, according to the polls, to achieve a substantial majority in the House of Commons. The strategy failed – not least because of Theresa May’s non-existent empathy with the general public – and so the Conservative Party was forced to form a minority government, relying on a confidence-and-supply agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order for the Conservatives to exercise executive power.
However, the key point here is this: the manifestos of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party respectively pledged to honour the Referendum result and take the UK out of the EU. In the General Election, 82% of the electorate – over 26 million people – voted Conservative or Labour. Just 7% of the electorate voted for the political party sworn to stopping Brexit: the Liberal Democrats. The British people desired to see Brexit delivered, even if the journey itself wasn’t clear.
It is an illusion to think that EU states can hold on to their autonomy’
President of the German Bundesbank
1993 – 99
The Brexit Process
The process for a member-state to leave the European Union is enshrined in Article 50 of The Treaty of Lisbon. Article 50 was triggered by the Conservative government in March 2017 and was to involve a 2-year process of negotiation aimed at securing a Withdrawal Agreement culminating in the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement could not be ratified by both parties to the Agreement then the UK would leave anyway on 29 March, without a formal agreement (NB Some lawyers argue that Article 50 does not permit the UK simply to leave the EU without an agreement; they argue that the government must pass legislation in Parliament expressly to leave the EU without a deal, but that’s another twist to the story).
Parliament passed into law the UK’s intention to leave the EU: the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In other words, the UK would leave the European Union by law on 29 March 2019, either under a Withdrawal Agreement, or by simply stopping being a member of the EU on that date. Parliament voted by 498 to 114 to trigger Article 50; in other words, Parliament decided emphatically that the UK would leave the European Union, by law, on a particular date, come what may.
‘National sovereignty will soon prove itself to be a product of the imagination’
Chancellor of Germany
1998 – 2005
Leaving without a formal agreement was soon termed ‘No Deal’. However, rather like Leaving became a Type-of-Leaving in the eyes of the losing side of the Referendum, so the losing side started describing No Deal as a ‘hard Brexit’ or a ‘cliff edge’ or ‘crashing out’ or some other pejorative adjective akin to Armageddon. In fact, leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement would simply require the UK to migrate to trading with the nations of the European Union under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Most of the countries of the world (77 of them) trade with the EU under WTO rules; the other 58 countries of the WTO trade with the EU under negotiated terms. The UK has nothing to fear about trading with the EU on WTO rules despite the hysterical cries from those on the losing side of the Referendum, amplified by the BBC and other organs of the mainstream media.
The Withdrawal Agreement
Prime Minister May said in January 2017 that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ implying that if any Withdrawal Agreement didn’t pass muster, the UK would leave the EU on 29 March as intended. Indeed, on over 100 occasions at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons the Prime Minister has stated that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March.
A Withdrawal Agreement was negotiated between the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services (M Michel Barnier) and a British civil servant (Mr Oliver ‘Olly’ Robbins). Both men are unelected bureaucrats. The 599-page Withdrawal Agreement was almost certainly conceived by European Commission lawyers and staff in Brussels using the expert writing skills of British civil servants.
The Meaningful Vote
Prime Minister May put the Withdrawal Agreement to the House of Commons on 9 January 2019 where it was debated for 5 days. On 16 January, Parliament rejected the deal in a so-called ‘Meaningful Vote’ by 432 to 202 votes – the biggest defeat of a government motion by Parliament in British history. Undeterred, the British government managed to secure from the EU a few insubstantial amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement and so, rather bizarrely, put the deal back to the House of Commons for a second ‘Meaningful Vote’ on 12 March. Parliament verified that the Agreement was a ‘bad deal’ by rejecting it again by 391 to 242 votes, the 4th biggest defeat of a government motion by Parliament in British history.
It might have been fair to assume at this stage, therefore, that the Barnier/Robbins’ deal was indeed a ‘bad deal’ and that the UK would be set to leave the EU with ‘no deal’ on 29 March – as promised by Mrs May on many occasions previously and enshrined as such in UK law.
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[[To be continued with Part 3 tomorrow on INDEPENDENCE Daily]