Monday, 10 July 2017

Brexit: the nuclear option

With each passing day, we get ever closer to the 30th March 2019, when if nothing changes, Britain leaves the EU and sails into uncharted waters. It seems likely, that things will get ever more frenetic as the weeks and months go by. And the problems and issues will come at a faster and thicker rate.

Most of today’s front pages were running a story in which the PM is appealing for a cross-party cooperation on delivering a “successful” Brexit. Coming just a few months after declaring anyone not sharing her views as being saboteurs. This could be a problem for Labour, being roped into dealing with something in a more direct way, and a thing which is likely to blow up in everyone’s faces. This is needed to head off any potential rebellions by MPs in her own party, just eight of which could derail any legislation. This on top of their new found friendship with those nice chaps at the DUP, which cost just one billion pounds. Mwah ha ha.

That there are still no clear objectives, just some poorly thought out red lines laid down last year; for example, not being subjected to rulings by the European Court of Justice (UCJ). This becomes important, because of the strong links between what turned into the EU and the European Atomic Agency, EUROTOM. In submitting the Article 50 notification, the 3rd paragraph of the resignation letter also said we were withdrawing from EUROTOM too.

It is possible that leaving the EU meant leaving EUROTOM too, or does not, but remaining in EUROTOM means being subject to ECJ rulings, or might not. No one knows for sure, and there are arguments on both sides.

What makes EUROTOM important is that it regulates the transfer of fissile material, used in scientific research and cancer treatment. Yes, Brexit might stop cancer treatment, and stop it for many years. The easiest solution would be to remove the mention of EUROTOM from the Article 50 notification, only that would probably require the approval of as a minimum the majority of the EU27 if not all of them. This would then open the Pandora’s Box of being able to amend or revoke the notification. If the EU27 would let us. And this might be the reason the Government has been taking legal advice.

But then it also shows how unprepared and poorly briefed the Government was, and/or poorly advised as to what implications of a statement to Conference about red lines.

These are real issues, and some people were warning of such issues months ago, but were ignored. And the EUROTOM issue might have been raised as a test to see how robust the Article 50 notification is, and how, or if it can be taken back.

The final nail was hammered into the Brexiteers hope that German car makers, Italian Prosecco growers, and so on, would scream about access to the British market after Brexit, by the German automotive industry trade body stating that the robustness of the Eurozone was more important that keeping access to markets of frictionless trade. Just like was predicted and rubbished by the Brexiteers.

All of this is in one narrow policy area, and one of many, possibly legion, that will explode in the upcoming months. As, remember, a framework of agreement needs to be in place by the end of September next year, to allow for ratification by each of the EU27, 11 regional Parliaments, the British Government and the EU Parliament.

And then there is the possibility of a delay to Article 50, in that if there is a delay of two months or more, that would require new EU elections in Britain, and that would be a strange situation for Britain and the EU. Which brings us back to what conditions the EU might impose on Britain on delaying or pausing or even stopping the Article 50 process. The Hard Remain I spoke of last time I posted.

And stopping Article 50 would only be possible, politically in the UK, on how that would sit with the Referendum result, advisory or not, seeing as many politicians speak of the mandate provided by the referendum, even if what was mandated is unclear, as the choice was a black/white leave or stay, when in reality, it was sold as a win/win cake eating decision that only had plusses, not of the risks or potential costs.

No easy answers or solutions, but fascinating, and so easily avoided.

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