Brexit – breaking the impasse
The original deadline for Brexit, 29th March 2019, is less than 4 days away. Debate continues, resolution seems so far away. What can be done to ensure an “orderly withdrawal”?
The key is in the provisions of Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU. A critical word is “agreement”. By definition, agreement includes at least two parties to a transactional arrangement.
Paragraph 1 of Article 50 states that “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” In the case of the UK, the constitutional requirement is approval in parliament. At the same time, “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”.
In the event of both parties being unable to come to a mutual agreement, paragraph 3 applies:
“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.”
The time period expires on Friday, 29th March 2019, albeit that provisional unanimity to extend was apparently given last week. The provision is that parliament will agree this week or present an alternative approach.
Parliament has been clear that there are some unacceptable parts of the so-called Withdrawal Agreement. Most pertinently, is what has become known as the `back stop’. The House of Commons refuses to accept the backstop, the EU refuses to remove it. Therefore, there is no agreement between the two parties. The default position is therefore to leave on Friday.
The Withdrawal Agreement can be seen from different perspectives. In public at least, there has been little opposition in the UK to a “divorce settlement” of £39 billion. Article 50 does not include any formal arrangement over payments. A break can be clean with no liabilities on either side. The £39 billion can be seen as a generous offer.
Other provisions on the Withdrawal Agreement include other generous provisions. The UK could reclaim fishing waters from 11 pm on Friday. A transitional situation has been proposed.
It is hard to find any similar concessions from representatives of the EU.
Through a series of votes, parliament has indicated that “no deal” is an unacceptable option, even though that is the default position. There appears to be an impasse.
With four days remaining, there are other options. Article 50 notice can be revoked, surely a message of revolt from parliament that the will of British people will be ignored. There are still 4 days left to find a compromise.
Ultimately, any treaty has to be agreed by a qualified majority the people of the EU according to their own constitution al requirements. The British government can therefore be expected to respectfully put a case to the people of the EU.
What should that message include?
On 23rd June 2016, the UK gave a message. We are part of the European family with shared histories, sometimes amicable, sometimes not. As with all families, we make pursue different directions, Children leave home to discover the world and gain independence. We simply chose a path that does not follow the ideal of “ever closer union”.
Given our past, we also have close ties with others around the world, not least a voluntary, liberal liaison with countries in the Commonwealth. We seek to develop our own relationships on a different basis with other friends. Moving in with a new partner does not mean that we ever want to ignore our close family.
We enjoy home cooking, we want to be able to enjoy the same treats that we have for decades, if not centuries. We are happy to provide a market for EU cheese and wines. We are also happy to provide markets for other goods. We buy Skodas from the Czech Republic, Peugots that were once made in the UK, now from Slovakia, BMWs from Germany, VW from all parts of the EU.
Our trade gives Germany alone a €50 billion trading surplus. We have been generous in offering managed access to British fishing waters over a transitional period. We have had no intention of devastating EU fishing ports in the same way that ours have been since the 1970s. Sadly, those allegedly negotiating on your behalf do not share the same spirit of compromise.
Any job losses, in cars, wine, cheese and many other areas are down to both parties who can not reach an agreement, predominantly those who will not compromise on anything. We can buy what we want from other friends around the world.
After nearly 3 years, enough is enough. EU negotiators and leaders have shown no appetite to avoid “no deal”. So be it.
Here is a final offer to the people of the EU.
We do not wish to be protectionist to either the EU or our global friends. After Friday, we can agree to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with our other friends. Your leaders don’t want to be a part of that free trade network.
However, agreement to progress to an FTA can keep doors open. Article XXIV of the WTO suggests that if we all agree to work towards that end, we can trade on the same basis as currently. The EU car industry is going through a difficult time, not least down to corporate interests in falsifying information about vehicle emissions.
We do not wish to impose tariffs on EU goods but are left in a position where we have to. Lack of reciprocity of protectionist measures leaves us with no bargaining power. We want to keep your incomes and wealth growing. Please bear in mind that we also have our social responsibility to other partners. We wish to help markets develop in other countries and aid through trade.
We are still prepared to be generous. There is no obligation under Article 50 to pay you anything. As a nation, we are considerate. We are happy to keep paying into EU funds during the current budgeting period. That ends in December 2020. However, the British people decided that we wish to support environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture, divert resources where we choose and not be subject to the vagaries of EU bureaucrats.
Britain is more than happy to give you the opportunity to adjust. Please let your leaders know that you want that period of adjustment too. Let’s agree to push for future FTAs. If your leaders do, then relationships will be maintained. If your leaders wish to cut off their noses to spite their faces, you have your ways of removing them – or actually you don’t. That is why we have chosen to leave.
Whatever happens, our people have close bonds. We may not be living in the same house but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to share a beer or two over football or when our interests coincide. We want to spend time with you on holidays and you are welcome to visit us. Just let’s have the freedom to grow.