In my previous Brexit post (please click here to view the post) I found myself in a position where I was annoyed and politically frustrated, much like the other 48% of the British electorate. We had all witnessed a drastic shift in the direction of British politics and it was intimidating for a lot of people. Although I clearly communicated the fact that I was giving my opinion and cared about how other people felt about this sensitive topic, I did not refrain from expressing my thoughts passionately. Though of course time moves on and so I feel it is relevant to revisit this topic now that I have more knowledge and insight. It is also important to discuss this issue because there have been so many developments and realisations that it would be hard for me to put it off any longer as a political blogger.
Firstly, and most importantly, I want to make one thing very clear to everyone who reads this (whether you’re pro-brexit or pro-remain this is the reality): we are not leaving anytime soon (it will be years due to the complicated nature of the process) and when we do we have very little say in the conditions for our departure. This somewhat undermines the proposed ‘red’ ‘white’ and ‘blue’ brexit suggested by Theresa May as there are 27 other colours to consider – in other words all of the EU member other states (please refer to first source in bibliography).
It has become clear that the rhetoric of ignorance that continues today around this topic has been fuelled by narrow minded media outlets and by stubborn politicians. We hear ‘hard brexit’ this and ‘soft brexit’ that. This is why I ask: how about an informed brexit? Little consideration has been given to the history of Britain and the EU and why we joined in the first place by both campaigns and, indeed, by our state apparatus. This is a grotesque miscarriage of justice in democratic terms because it has placed the multi-dimensional political issue of Europe and Britain in the hands of a population who have not been educated on the subject sufficiently. Furthermore, it has been presented as though it can be solved in simple binary terms. As a consequence of this we now find ourselves betrayed because the vote that appeared so simple is more intricate than we first thought.
We have seen numerous promises about the progression of brexit, especially with May’s confirmation of the white papers being released in ‘due course’ after the supreme courts verdict to ensure article 50 is debated in the House of Commons. Despite attempts from tabloids to present this progression as reassuring and ‘definite’, this is the start of a long and tedious bureaucratic process. To demonstrate this I will now explain each ‘phase of brexit’ according to the a paper titled brexit in Perspective – Episode 1: keep calm and negotiate by the Brunswick group (find source in bibliography below).
Now that article 50 is going to parliament, it means that it will follow the standard practice of British policy (being debated by both houses and then being signed by the monarch). Given brexit is a ‘hot topic’ this may be completed by March 2017 but there is no guarantee. After this we, Britain, will then formally notify the European Council (not to be confused with the Council of Europe which is an entirely different institution – it is an intergovernmental organisation whereas the EU is supranational organisation; a quick google search will explain these terms for those of you who don’t know them) of our intention to withdraw our EU membership.
The European Council will then adopt broad ‘principle based’ guidelines for the Article 50 Framework. This means that they will evaluate our proposal according to EU regulations and policy but have the ability to revise these guideline if needs be. The Council will then, based on the recommendations of the European Commission (this institution within the EU is responsible for proposing policy, implementing decisions and overseeing daily procedures) nominate a Union negotiator and then start the process of open negotiations. It is estimated that this will take place around March-June 2017, though there is, yet again, no certainty. This is because Britain, and indeed the remaining 27 member states of the EU, could halt the process by dragging their heels.
In this part of the process the European Council will formally nominate Michael Barnier as chief negotiator. Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister (1999-2008), will act as the ‘observer’ for the European Parliament; he will have an indirect influence over negotiations. This is of significance as he is dedicated to the EU project and wants it, much like Belgium, to become federal; he will play a fundamental role in the negotiations and how forgiving they will be. Do not be mistaken, the EU has a strong hand and it knows our cards – a poker face will not work during these negotiations but, instead, cooperation and understanding is required which, unfortunately, we appear to have little of. This phase is predicted to take place from June – August 2017.
This process is more lengthy than the previous as it is predicted to take place over a year, August 2017 – October 2018. This is because this is the beginning of the formal negotiations with the United Kingdom which include dense topics such as: the EU budget, financial settlement, the acquired rights of citizens and businesses, and borders.
By this stage the European Parliament, the European Council and the United Kingdom will have, hopefully, come to some form of settlement or will have agreed to extend negotiations. The scope of this phase is a just under a year, October 2018 – March 2019, and is dependent on whether it is an EU or ‘mixed’ competency agreement (mixed competency is a confusing process but it is essentially less legally binding/clear than a unilateral decision – though don’t just take my word for it, see the bibliography for an online source).
We will have reached the final hurdle by March 2019, the question is: what will it be? Will we create a new transnational relationship with the EU; like remaining in the single market? Or, will we opt for a ‘hard’ brexit? Hopefully more will be revealed once the White Papers are complete.
I would urge any of you reading this, and indeed the government, to leave self-indulgent, stubborn metaphors of brexit behind and focus on what is best for everybody rather than political egotism and misinformation. I would also urge everyone, from both the EU and the UK, to be patient with each other and try not to pass blame but instead think of solutions.What I hope to have addressed in this post is, firstly, that although I am still coming from the a position similar to my last post I am now more informed on matters. Secondly, that we need to be willing to cooperate and not blame one another. And lastly, we must be willing to better educate ourselves, myself included, on the subject of Britain and Europe.
1. Discussion of Theresa May’s ‘red’ ‘white’ and ‘blue’ brexit by Dr. Nikos Skoutaris available at: http://ukandeu.ac.uk/the-colours-of-brexit/
2. Brunswick, brexit in Perspective – Episode 1: keep calm and negotiate, An Inside View From Brussels. (Refer to page three for a map of the 6 phases).
3. Online source on mixed competency: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/competences/f#q1 aq