Brexit: Mission Impossible?

As Britain is about to “trigger” Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 

To start off with | What is Article 50?

  • Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any EU member the right to quit unilaterally, and outlines the procedure for doing so
  • There was no way to legally leave the EU before the Treaty was signed in 2007
  • It gives the leaving country two years to negotiate an exit deal
  • Once set in motion, it cannot be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states
  • Any deal must be approved by a “qualified majority” of EU member states and can be vetoed by the European Parliament

I have emphasised the key point of Article 50, which is that the process of withdrawal is supposed to happen in two years. Now  two years would seem a long time to negotiate a withdrawal from any organisation. But the European Union is no ordinary organisation.

We are not splitting up a company, having a domestic divorce or even seeing a change of political administration. Since Britain became a member of the E.E.C. in 1970 (later to become the European Union following the 1993 Maastricht Treaty), we have become one of  the largest and most important players in a significant political, economic and legal entity that affects many aspects of our everyday lives.

The splitting up from this Union is therefore an incredibly complicated process. As I have outlined above it has to take into consideration political agreement, new trade treaties with what has become our most important trading partner and the need to change a significant proportion of our laws relating to working conditions, education and habitation as well as right to social security and other benefits to EU nationals living and working in Britain and the rights of our fellow citizens working and living in EU countries.

The key point here is that all this has to be settled (according to the wording of Article 50, which was , as it happens, drafted by by Scottish cross-bench peer and former diplomat Lord Kerr of Kinlochard) in two years!

I read an article (online) from the Financial Times that I think does a brilliant job in trying to explain the minefield that Britain is about to enter after we “trigger” the clause this Wednesday (29th March). It is titled:

Brexit: everything you need to know about Article 50

I would strongly recommend anyone to read it if they are seeking some light in the smog that surrounds this crucial issue.

We are about to start what could be the most significant change in the history of my country in my lifetime and indeed since the ending of the Second World War. I saw an interesting debate from the London School of Economics on YouTube the other day about Brexit following the triggering of article 50. One of the speakers gave two possible scenarios for what might happen over the next two years.

(1) We get an agreement about trade, rights of EU and British nationals and are able to set up a smooth exit that is mutually agreeable to both Britain and the EU.

(2) The whole thing ends in no agreement and Britain is essentially cast adrift with huge problems about trade deals, the rights of our planes to land in the E.C. and facing the exit of valuable workers from the EU from our economy.

The F.T. article included a brilliant little video entitled “Brexit: Mission Impossible?”. It is to be hoped that we do not drift towards the realisation of the second scenario outlined by the L.S.E. professor for our sakes and most significantly for the sakes of our children and their descendants for many years to come!

 

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