Friday, 1 July 2016

Close the door on the way out, will you?

If you're a UK national living in Europe you might be living in hope that Brexit just won't happen and that life can go on as normal. The failure to trigger Article 50 immediately has truly been something of a surprise to me. Maybe no one will ever pluck up the courage to actually do it. There's certainly been a lot of chatter on this topic. You can read some of the arguments about it here, here and here .  Did Barack Obama even hint that leaving the EU is far from a certainty? (answer = no to save you the time clicking on the link.)  For all sorts of selfish reasons I want to believe the UK will ultimately stay in the EU but I think this is a fantasy. The fear and despair I mentioned in my first ever post have just returned. Urghh, I need a whisky.

I made a bold statement up there so I'd better back it up. Let's talk through some likely scenarios that look initially promising and see if any of them end up with a long-term plan for UK remaining in the EU. First off, imagine that the Tory leadership election is miraculously won by a pro-EU candidate. The new Prime Minister then stalls and prevaricates, tells the electorate it is just too hard, too dangerous, circumstances have changed, not the right timing etc. They keep this up for a few years but as we near the next General Election of 2020 the pressures that led to the referendum in the first place are going to grow and grow. Let's not forget that the referendum was called to minimise UKIP pressure on Tory votes in the run-up to the 2015 election. UKIP are not going to go away until they get what they want. Far from it.  They are emboldened. Any party running on a policy of further prevarication on Article 50 is fundamentally screwed. I say any party but, let's face it, Labour are not going to win the next election. They can barely put a team forward for a three-legged race.  No, it is there for the Conservative Party to lose. Anyway, all of this places an upper bound on EU citizenship of the year 2022. Perhaps enough time to gain citizenship in your host nation.

You might have read about the possibility of a second referendum to accept or reject any settlement negotiated with the EU. Sounds good, doesn't it? Surely the collective wisdom of the UK wouldn't do this twice?  Perhaps I'm an overly pessimistic Scot but this one really terrifies me. Let's think about it for a second. Someone in the government draws the short straw and triggers Article 50. The clock starts ticking. Don't forget, these negotiations must be completed within 24 months. Let me just say that again: 43 years of legislation need to be unpicked in just 24 months. This is huge. Bigger than the cones hotline. Bigger than hug-a-hoodie. Even bigger than clean-for-the-queen. Goddammit, this is even bigger than the big society and that was big from the outset. 24 months sounds optimistic. So, anyway, the government calls a referendum on the settlement.  If the settlement is accepted then we leave the EU. Maybe it's a Norway solution, maybe it's more like Switzerland, maybe it becomes known as the Basingstoke model. But what happens if it is rejected? Maybe the Brexiteers think it is too European and vote it down.  Maybe the pro-EU voters think voting it down will bring us back into the EU.  Well, it won't.  We will just leave the EU with whatever deal can be scrabbled together in the remaining time. Timetable for departure: roughly 2.25 years.  I need another whisky.

Maybe the devolved parliaments can block this. Surely the Scottish Parliament won't drop us all in it?  You might have read arguments supporting this here . Sadly, the argument is pretty much demolished here.  The key point is that Westminster is allowed to trump the Scottish Parliament in  "non-normal circumstances".  Besides, faced with an English constitutional crisis or a Scottish one, I think I know which a Conservative or Labour Prime Minister would choose.  Start attending those citizenships classes if you can find the time.   You have roughly 2.25 years. 

What hope is there, then?  Well, if you are Scottish (like me) or can claim Scottish ancestry you need to pin your hopes on an independence referendum, followed by immediate accession to the EU as an existing member.   Gie it laldy, Mr Momus.

Over and out,


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