How to give everybody the Brexit they want
Over the past few months, the idea has been floated several times of creating a sort of “associate” membership of the EU. This would allow UK citizens to buy themselves into EU membership on an individual basis. Those people who value their EU rights and privileges would then have the opportunity to retain some of those rights after Brexit.
But, here at Citizen of Nowhere, we wonder whether this idea may be tackling the problem from the wrong direction. After all, much of the problem with Brexit is the negative impact it will have on the country as a whole – our industries, our finances, our influence in the world. Allowing individual citizens to opt back into EU membership won’t change the fact that the UK and its citizens will be in myriad ways impoverished by Brexit. We should also note that it would appear a majority of people in the UK, even Tory MPs, would now prefer to remain in the EU and just get on with their lives.
So how about we do this the other way around? What if the UK remains in the EU, and we set up an “Associate Unmembership” scheme to allow individual people to opt-out of the EU if they want?
It’s been a few weeks since our last Hall of Shame. The reason for this is simple: after committing to a publication deadline, our management team realised they didn’t have a plan for what they wanted to achieve.
Now, we could have sat down and worked out a plan, and with the clock ticking down maybe that would have been sensible. But instead we decided to waste a few weeks having a vote on which person should be elected the next recipient of the Hall of Shame award.
A few days into the Article 50 process, it is clear to the Government that this whole Brexit business is not going to be quite as straightforward as the Leave campaign said it would be. Not only is the process of detaching ourselves from the EU going to be fiendishly complex, with problems upon problems that ministers haven’t even dreamed of, let alone planned for, Theresa May’s basic strategy for negotiations has fallen flat on its face.
We’re not going to get the wonderful Brexit we were promised. What the EU have been saying all along – that the UK can’t expect better benefits as a non-member of the club than are enjoyed by any member, has already become the basis for negotiation. Barely a week into the two-year process, it has become a damage limitation exercise, and all parties to the negotiations now realise that the best possible deal with the EU comes from the closest recreation of what we have now.
As I write this, Theresa May is poised to trigger Article 50 and start the process of taking us out of the EU.
Now that it’s certain we’re going to set this juggernaut in motion, I expect Leave voters are feeling pleased and a little relieved that we’re finally getting on with the job. If you’re one of them, I’d like to take a moment to address you directly now. I know you won’t want to hear what I have to say, I know this will seem like a “Remoaner” rant (and I have to admit that it is), but please bear with me on just this one journey. If you’re a Remain voter, or didn’t vote, I think you need to hear this too.
We’re about to embark on a massive change to the UK, and the effects will be felt for generations. There is no easy way to undo what we are about to do, so I think we all deserve a brief pause to consider it, and be absolutely sure what exactly we think we’re going to achieve. So please stay with me until the end of this article. I’ll put lots of links in here to support what I’m going to say, and show why I think we should be worried about what is going to happen next. I think by the end of this you may be quite worried too, possibly angry, hopefully not at me but at what is being done in your name.
It’s quite long, I’m afraid. But let’s take a deep breath, and dive in.
If we crash out of the Single Market, as Theresa May intends to do if the EU don’t give in to her negotiating demands, we will need to expand our trading links with the rest of the world massively to balance the trade we are going to lose.
We probably are going to crash out of the Single Market. The EU have been very clear all along that they cannot agree to our demands so, two years after we trigger Article 50, we’ll be out without a deal.
David Davis MP, Vote Leave campaign
“I am absolutely convinced this is not doable in two years”
Pascal Lamy, former director general of the WTO
David Davis made it all look so easy. In articles and in tweets, he told us we’d have a wealth of new world-wide trade deals all signed and ready to go on the day we left the EU. He told us Germany and France would be rushing to make individual deals to sell us their cars and their wine. The only problem with this sunny prediction: it was all fiction…
Theresa May, UK PM, speech on 17th January 2017
“I think this is not possible. We have four freedoms and this is not negotiable — if you have one of them and you don’t want it, it is not possible because I call it cherry picking.”
Michael Fuchs, adviser to Angela Merkel
No really, why wouldn’t they give us everything we want? They need us more than we need them. Don’t they?
The claim was repeatedly made across the Leave side of the referendum campaigns — we import a greater value of goods from the EU (£291bn in 2015) than we export to them (£223bn), so they rely on us more than we rely on them. For example, German car manufacturers, we were told, would insist on a special deal for the UK, one of their largest markets.
Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep.
It’s not a dream. It’s not a vision. It’s not some bureaucrat’s plan. It’s for real.”
Margaret Thatcher, introducing the Single Market
I wonder what Sir Arthur Cockfield would have thought of this Brexit business? Perhaps more than any other single individual, Cockfield can lay claim to having created the EU single market. It almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without him.
When Theresa May tells us that we will probably leave the single market, I think we all need to understand what it is we are giving up. We need to know what it does, what it doesn’t do, and why.
The single market isn’t just a trade deal, and it isn’t just about tariffs. It’s a big, bold attempt to set out a relationship based on fair treatment and an equal chance to succeed.
And, in very large part, it’s British.
Daniel Hannan MEP, Vote Leave, before referendum
“What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market”
Theresa May, PM, after referendum
So how much is Brexit going to cost?
The simple answer is that nobody knows.
In some ways, this is understandable – trying to add up the bill is tricky when it’s based on forecasts of events which may or may not happen. But it is striking that we appear to be heading towards Article 50 notification without our Government having any detailed figures for what the price tag is likely to be. Or, if they do know they are not telling us…