On Friday 15 July David Davis published his ”Brexit Bluprint”, a convenient framework for discussion:
- Britain would start the process of leaving the European Union by the end of this year, after consulting with administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and other business groups and unions;
- Britain to leave the European Union finally by December 2018;
- UK should seek to strike a deal with the EU based on a “liberalised” existing trade arrangement with Canada to eliminate all customs duties and not allow uncontrolled immigration into the UK;
- Britain should seek new free trade agreements with “the biggest prospective markets as fast as possible”;
- The UK should “accelerate” the agreement of the controversial Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal with the US;
- Britain should prioritise trade deals with the rest of the world focusing initially on China, USA, Canada and Hong Kong then others like Australia, Brazil, India, South Korea, Japan, Mexico and South Africa;
- Britain should start to wean itself off grants from Brussels well before the UK finally severs its links to the EU and instead pay grants directly to farmers and fishermen;
The process of our leaving
Many will be disappointed by the lengthy delay but I would argue that the real issue lies in the list of those to be consulted:
- Scotland or, more correctly, the SNP. This is an organisation with another agenda, that of Scotland leaving the UK whilst somehow thinking that they can immediately transfer allegiance directly to the EU. I see no value in any discussion here, which will simply delay the process. Their rabid leader seems incapable of participating in any rational discussion and has already tried to undermine the referendum result by flying off to meet with EU representatives. The Scots already enjoy significant per capita over-representation in the UK Parliament so have ample opportunity to participate in discussion via their elected representatives. Of course this issue has now been compounded by May rushing off to meet with Ms. Sturgeon.
- Wales as well has its MPs in Westminster, so why the need for additional negotiation? At least they are mostly on our side so hopefully will not try to frustrate the process.
- Northern Ireland also seems to have been preparing the ground for a different agenda, so there’s little hope of any constructive contribution.
- “Other Business Groups” is perhaps the most worrying point, since they are likely to focus on a postulated loss of trade with the EU. Their views are already contaminated by the various scare stories they have created. I cannot imagine the simple and most important issue for us, of regaining our sovereignty, has even been considered. Certainly we need these discussions to be open, starting with a list of all those intended to be consulted and followed up with a statement of the views expressed by them. Hopefully the list does not include May’s friend Branson.
- The Trade Unions should not be involved at all; we already know that they will promote the leftist views of the Labour Party which has its opportunity to participate through the normal democratic process in Parliament.
So we have ended up with several months’ unnecessary delay likely to result in nothing of value.
The date and method of our leaving
- “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
- A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
- The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
- For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
- If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
This provides too much control of the leaving process by the EU’s masters and, worryingly, does allow this process to be extended. The requirement for internal discussions without our being represented could lead to a loop with much iteration, eventually reaching the prescribed 2 year time limit with nothing concluded. Are we really to believe that a government comprised largely of Europhiles would not seize that opportunity to frustrate our leaving by extending the process beyond the next general election?
Let us also remember that throughout the negotiation period we are still subject to EU rules, still pay the exorbitant membership fee and are still unable to control our own borders effectively. Most importantly, it seems that we would be unable to conclude necessary trade deals with the rest of the world without applying EU rules.
We ought to strike hard and fast before they have time to create further obstructions to our leaving. There has been much discussion around simply repealing the enabling legislation, the 1972 European Communities Act; the main criticism being that it would upset our EU masters and prejudice future trade negotiations, even though the advantage is ours (actual figures are difficult to calculate but estimates suggest that the annual deficit is around £24bn in our favour).
One point that government is unwilling to acknowledge is that the signing of the various EU treaties, started by that scoundrel Heath, was most probably illegal and Heath was advised so by Lord Kilmuir, the Lord Chancellor. We need a proper unbiased legal opinion as this might turn out to be a necessary action even while negotiating the convoluted process of Article 50.
Remember the old proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick…”.