Brexit

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Event.png Brexit 
Brexit.jpg
Date March 2017 - 2019
Interest of Gina Miller

Brexit, a portmanteau of the words "British" and "exit", is the process by which the United Kingdom (UK) intends to withdraw from the European Union (EU), as a result of the June 2016 EU Referendum in which 51.9% voted to leave the EU.[1]

On 20 June 2017, the day after Brexit Secretary David Davis opened the first round of negotiations in Brussels,[2] LBC radio presenter James O'Brien claimed he had proof that Conservative MPs believe leaving the European Union will be a disaster - no one wants to be Prime Minister through Brexit.[3]

Laughing stock of Europe

Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU's Michel Barnier negotiating on 19 June 2017

On 17 June 2017, Swiss newspaper Der Bund published the following article entitled "Lachnummer Europas"[4] ("Laughing stock of Europe"):

If it weren't so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical. The country is being governed by a talking robot, nicknamed the Maybot, that somehow managed to visit the burned-out tower block in the west of London without speaking to a single survivor or voluntary helper. Negotiations for the country’s exit from the EU are due to begin on Monday, but no one has even a hint of a plan. The government is dependent on a small party that provides a cozy home for climate change deniers and creationists. Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary. What in the world has happened to this country?

Two years ago David Cameron emerged from the parliamentary election as the shining victor. He had secured an absolute majority, and as a result it looked as if the career of this cheerful lightweight was headed for surprisingly dizzy heights. The economy was growing faster than in any other industrialised country in the world. Scottish independence and, with it, the break-up of the United Kingdom had been averted. For the first time since 1992, there was a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. Great Britain saw itself as a universally respected actor on the international stage. This was the starting point.

In order to get from this comfortable position to the chaos of the present in the shortest possible time, two things were necessary: first, the Conservative right wingers’ obsessive hatred of the EU, and second, Cameron’s irresponsibility in putting the whole future of the country on the line with his referendum, just to satisfy a few fanatics in his party. It is becoming ever clearer just how extraordinarily bad a decision that was. The fact that Great Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe is directly linked to its vote for Brexit.

The ones who will suffer most will be the British people, who were lied to by the Brexit campaign during the referendum and betrayed and treated like idiots by elements of their press. The shamelessness still knows no bounds: the Daily Express has asked in all seriousness whether the inferno in the tower block was due to the cladding having been designed to meet EU standards. It is a simple matter to discover that the answer to this question is No, but by failing to check it, the newspaper has planted the suspicion that the EU might be to blame for this too. As an aside: a country in which parts of the press are so demonstrably uninterested in truth and exploit a disaster like the fire in Grenfell Tower for their own tasteless ends has a very serious problem.

Already prices are rising in the shops, already inflation is on the up. Investors are holding back. Economic growth has slowed. And that’s before the Brexit negotiations have even begun. With her unnecessary general election, Prime Minister Theresa May has already squandered an eighth of the time available for them. How on earth an undertaking as complex as Brexit is supposed to be agreed in the time remaining is a mystery.

Great Britain will end up leaving its most important trading partner and will be left weaker in every respect. It would make economic sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. It would be better to have stayed in the EU in the first place. So the government now needs to develop a plan that is both politically acceptable and brings the fewest possible economic disadvantages. It’s a question of damage limitation, nothing more; yet even now there are still politicians strutting around Westminster smugly trumpeting that it will be the EU that comes off worst if it doesn’t toe the line.

The EU is going to be dealing with a government that has no idea what kind of Brexit it wants, led by an unrealistic politician whose days are numbered; and a party in which old trenches are being opened up again: moderate Tories are currently hoping to be able to bring about a softer exit after all, but the hardliners in the party – among them more than a few pigheadedly obstinate ideologues – are already threatening rebellion. An epic battle lies ahead, and it will paralyse the government.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that he now expects the Brits to finally set out their position clearly, since he cannot negotiate with himself. The irony of this statement is that it would actually be in Britain’s best interests if he did just that. At least that way they’d have one representative on their side who grasps the scale of the task and is actually capable of securing a deal that will be fair to both sides. The Brits do not have a single negotiator of this stature in their ranks. And quite apart from the Brexit terms, both the debate and the referendum have proven to be toxic in ways that are now making themselves felt.

British society is now more divided than at any time since the English civil war in the 17th century, a fact that was demonstrated anew in the general election, in which a good 80% of the votes were cast for the two largest parties. Neither of these parties was offering a centrist programme: the election was a choice between the hard right and the hard left. The political centre has been abandoned, and that is never a good sign. In a country like Great Britain, that for so long had a reputation for pragmatism and rationality, it is grounds for real concern. The situation is getting decidedly out of hand.

After the loss of its empire, the United Kingdom sought a new place in the world. It finally found it, as a strong, awkward and influential part of a larger union: the EU. Now it has given up this place quite needlessly. The consequence, as is now becoming clear, is a veritable identity crisis from which it will take the country a very long time to recover.[5]

A Tory Brexit

In an article dated 31 March 2017, The Canary reported:

Voting to leave the EU is not inherently racist or foolish. Even those of us who would have chosen to remain in the EU cannot ignore its serious flaws. Particularly its anti-democratic tendencies. In recent years, the EU deposed the democratically elected leaders of Greece and Italy, and replaced them with pro-austerity technocrats.[6] This is a challenge to democracy. It is not ignorant or bigoted to question a continuing and deepening alliance to such a system.

But the left-wing Brexit of greater democracy and protection from radical neoliberal austerity is never going to happen under this current government. May’s Brexit is about quite the opposite. The PM is more interested in dismantling hard-won rights. And cutting the taxes paid by wealthy individuals and corporations.

In order to protect Britain from the losses associated with leaving the single market, May’s government has confirmed it would turn Britain into a tax haven – cutting corporation taxes radically to attract business.[7] May has also campaigned to withdraw Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights,[8] and has steadfastly refused to guarantee working people’s rights after Brexit. The rights that ensure us all a minimum wage, maximum hours, and safe workplaces. The ones that all but ended sweatshop/workhouse conditions in the UK. Yet these rights may well end up on the chopping block as May courts corporations to stay in the country.[9]

UKIP has enabled this. It has sold working-class Britain a lemon.[10]

Article 50

On 2 October 2016, the first day of the Conservative Party conference, Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union by the end of March 2017 which would make the UK set to leave the EU by the end of March 2019. Although the terms for withdrawal have not been established, May has promised a Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and to transfer existing EU laws into the UK domestic law.[11]

On 3 November 2016, upon an application by Gina Miller and others, the High Court ruled that Theresa May's government could not trigger Article 50 without first consulting Parliament.[12]

On 20 March 2017, a Downing Street spokesman announced that Prime Minister Theresa May is to officially notify the European Union on Wednesday 29 March 2017 that the UK is leaving.[13] Her letter invoking Article 50 was delivered to Donald Tusk, Chair of the European Council, at 12:20 hours BST, after which she made a statement to the House of Commons.[14]

Parliamentary debate

In a House of Commons debate on 11 October 2016, the Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer put 170 questions about Brexit to the government and sought an assurance that Parliament would be given a vote on the terms of the exit negotiations:

"We do accept and respect the result of the referendum. But neither those who voted to remain nor those who voted to leave gave the government a mandate to take an axe to our economy. By flirting with Hard Brexit the Prime Minister puts at risk Britain's access to the single market rather than doing the right thing for jobs, for business and for working people in this country. So much for putting the national interest first!"[15]

For the government, Brexit Secretary David Davis said he was not prepared to outline Brexit aims in detail since it was “not black or white” whether the UK would stay in the single market and Parliament could not expect to be given every detail of the government’s plans for leaving. Davis said the government had a mandate to get the best possible deal but insisted he could go no further than talking about overarching aims because revealing the UK’s top priority would prove “extremely expensive”. Sterling fell to one of its lowest ever levels of $1.22 as David Davis was speaking.[16]

Background

The process of withdrawal from the European Union has, since 2007, been governed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. No member state has ever left the EU. Under Article 50, the withdrawal must be in accordance with the Member State's constitutional requirements and uncertainty exists as to the constitutional requirements in the UK. Unless extensions are agreed to unanimously by the Council of the European Union, the timing for leaving under the article is two years from when the UK gives official notice, but this official notice was not given immediately following the referendum in June 2016. The assumption is that during the two-year window new agreements will be negotiated, but there is no requirement that there be new agreements.[17] Some aspects, such as trade agreements, may be made difficult to negotiate by the EU until after Britain has formally left the EU.[18]

Withdrawal has been the goal of various individuals, advocacy groups, and political parties since the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor of the EU, in 1973, though continued membership of the EEC and the Common Market was approved in a 1975 referendum by 67.2% of votes.  

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England prepares to leave the worldArticle4 November 2016Neal Ascherson"If you believe you are a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere." Mrs May will pass into folklore with that line, just as Mrs Thatcher is remembered for "There is no such thing as society."
Project BrexitComment24 June 2017DavidProject Brexit: "Doomed to Failure"
Richmond Park prospective candidate: I would vote against Article 50 in ParliamentStatement4 November 2016Christian WolmarStatement by Labour Party prospective parliamentary candidate Christian Wolmar who aims to win the 2016 Richmond Park by-election
Where we go from here - Britain after BrexitArticle28 August 2016Anthony BarnettAnalysis of the so-called "Brexit" referendum result and prognosis for the future of the UK by a "passionate European" who wants to "keep the European flame alive".
 

Related Quotation

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PageQuoteAuthorDate
Theresa May“Brexit means Brexit, and we're going to make a success of it.”Theresa MayJuly 2016


References

  1. "UK officials seek draft agreements with EU before triggering article 50"
  2. "Frazzled David Davis guides UK to 3-0 defeat in first round"
  3. "James O'Brien Has Proof That Politicians Know Brexit Will Be A Disaster"
  4. "Lachnummer Europas"
  5. "Laughing stock of Europe"
  6. "Technocrats have taken over governments in Southern Europe"
  7. "Theresa May 'stands ready' to turn Britain into a tax haven after Brexit"
  8. "Theresa May 'will campaign to leave the European Convention on Human Rights in 2020 election'"
  9. "Government refuses to guarantee workers' rights after Brexit"
  10. "UKIP leader Paul Nuttall had no place being on Question Time last night. Now he wishes he wasn’t"
  11. "Brexit: PM to trigger Article 50 by end of March". BBC News. 2016-10-02. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  12. "R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, 2016 EWHC 2768 (Admin)"
  13. "Article 50: Theresa May to trigger Brexit process next week"
  14. "Historic Article 50 letter delivered"
  15. "Red-faced Iain Duncan Smith takes back bizarre claim one of Britain's top barristers is a 'second-rate lawyer'"
  16. "Pound falls back as Davis says government cannot outline Brexit aims in detail"
  17. "EU referendum: Would Brexit violate UK citizens' rights?". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  18. "UK officials seek draft agreements with EU before triggering article 50"