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?
Alright, we know there would be some complexities around achieving this goal. But if you want it, we could create a system whereby you could leave the EU on your own initiative. If you think our Ten Minute Brexit Deal didn’t go far enough in separating you from EU influence, then step this way.
The plan with unmembership is to create as closely as possible a post-Brexit world for those people who want it, while the rest of us (and the country as a whole) remain EU members as before. Everybody gets what they want. No one is forced to remain or to leave if they don’t want to, it’s up to you to decide for yourself.
Here’s how it could work in practice.
Clearly, this is the first difference that may spring to mind. As an Unmember, you won’t have the freedom to live, work or study in the 27 other EU member states, or the other four (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) who have free movement arrangements with the EU. This probably won’t matter much to you, otherwise you’d presumably have voted to Remain.
You can still travel to any of these countries on holiday, but you will need to obtain a visa, for which a fee will be payable. A visa may be denied, for example if you have a criminal record, but will usually be granted within a few weeks. So you’ll need to plan ahead, rather than take last minute deals or cheap standby flights.
You will also need to arrange your own health insurance, since you will not be covered by the EU’s reciprocal health cover for EU nationals. If you are elderly or have chronic or serious health issues, this may cost from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds.
At the border, you will find there is a new customs channel just for you, where additional customs checks, passport and visa checks and searches may be carried out. We apologise that this will probably take a little longer, so please arrive at least four hours earlier than your scheduled check-in time. If your partner or your family are UK-EU members, they’ll be able to wait for you on the other side.
Duty free goods will be heavily restricted, so please bear this in mind on your return. If you have any friends or relatives who are UK-EU members, they could bring back cigarettes and alcohol for you.
Please bear in mind that the new rules restricting mobile phone roaming charges do not apply to you. Mobile phone companies are allowed to charge you whatever they like when you use your phone in the EU, so please check your bills carefully. Before you go, it would be advisable to make sure your UK phone company has a billing agreement with an operator in all countries you’re visiting. Alternatively, you could leave your phone at home, to be on the safe side.
At the moment, it is unclear whether you will be allowed to fly from the UK to foreign destinations, particularly the US and Europe. We will update you on this situation after you have joined up as an Unmember, but you may have to go via ferry if you want to travel from the UK. You may also find your driving licence and car insurance are not accepted in some locations, so please check with your destination country before travel.
Brexit is expected to make the NHS impossible to fund or staff. Since our plan is to create the effect of Brexit only for those of you who want it, we will retain the NHS, but for the use of UK-EU members only.
As an Unmember, you will need to obtain your own health insurance cover or to pay in full for your medical treatment. This will include prescriptions, for which you will need either adequate insurance (but check exclusions for pre-existing conditions) or to pay the full cost of the medication.
The Government’s plan to leave Euratom – the body that governs the use of nuclear materials –after Brexit, would prevent the import of materials needed for radiotherapy treatments for cancer. As an Unmember, therefore, you will need to go overseas at your own expense if you should ever need such treatments. UK-EU members will continue to receive such treatment free of charge on the NHS, as they do currently.
You will of course no longer have a say in the government or direction of the EU. As a result, while UK-EU citizens have a right to vote for MEPs in European elections, you will not.
Brexit is expected to result in significant reduction of many sectors of the UK economy. Clearly we cannot recreate this situation just for one group of people. The closest we can get is to exclude you – the Unmember – from working in the affected sectors, to mimic as closely as possible the effect of the disappearance of those jobs.
A full list will be published after you have joined as an Unmember, but the areas you will be banned from working in is likely to include: farming, manufacturing, the motor industry, aerospace, media, science, research, computing (including computer gaming), steel.
This is a tricky area. You may have assumed that, as an Unmember, you could simply ignore any EU laws in your day-to-day life. But this is, we’re afraid to tell you, not going to be the case. It has always been the Government’s intention to carry over all EU law to UK law when Brexit takes place, so you will still have to abide by all those regulations. You were always going to have to follow EU law, whatever happened, even if it got a new name after Brexit.
And because we’re still all going to be living in the same country, that means you’ll be living in a world where safety regulations prevent companies from poisoning you, and where employment rights are in place. We can’t, after all, chase around after you and dump raw sewage in the sea wherever you go swimming. No really, we’ve checked. We can’t.
So what we’re going to do, to give you the most Brexit life we can, is this: whenever anything goes wrong – if you find sewage in your tap water, or you get sacked by a discriminatory employer, or a mail order company fails to send you the product you ordered – we’ll check the laws that are supposed to protect you. If they came from the UK, then you’re covered by those laws. If they came from the EU, then you’re not covered. Simple.
BrexitCentral have complained that allowing the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK the continued protection of the European courts would create a two-tier society, where some people (EU nationals) have more rights than others (UK nationals). They are correct in noting that Brexit will take away some of our fundamental rights and protections. But, as an Unmember, this is what you are choosing to do of your own free will: to remove some of your own rights.
We may not be able to get rid of all the EU law, but we can absolve you of much of its protection. If that’s what you want.
This is a wide-ranging set of provisions we are offering here to all people who want to leave the EU. Such an offer is surely not going to come cheap, you may think. You’d be right.
Because we’re still all sharing the same country, it would be difficult to create a situation where UK-EU remainers could pay one price for all their goods and services, and you Associate Unmembers could pay your own different post-Brexit price. It would also be difficult to mimic the empty shelves and closed businesses as sectors of industry, food and farming close down, just for one group of customers. So instead we’re going to model the cost of Brexit at source, by taxing your income appropriately.
It has been estimated that UK citizens will be 30% worse off in real terms over the next two decades as a result of Brexit. So the membership fee for all Associate Unmembers will be exactly that: a 30% tax on your take-home pay, pensions or savings.
It won’t be quite as pure as full Brexit, because all products will still be available to buy as before, but it will be as close as we can get to the cost of Brexit.
Why wait? Sign up for immediate coverage. No medical is required, and no salesman will call. We don’t have to wait years while the Brexit negotiations are carried out, and more years of transition, and yet more years of grubbing around for new trade deals to replace the ones we lost. No going cap in hand to Mr Trump. You don’t even have to wait to give up a third of your income. You could do this right now.
Become a card-carrying Leaver. Do it now. It’s a fair and serious offer.
Okay, clearly we’ve been a bit flippant here. But the underlying point is a serious one: this is where we are headed. All flavours of Brexit are basically flavours of Unmembership, and if Brexit continues we’re all going to be in the situation described above, whether we like it or not.
Is this really what you want?
The Ten Minute Brexit Deal
Are You Angry Yet?
Unmembership ID card graphic by Alexis Taylor