Our ability to enforce cut off dates for new immigrants from the European Union to come to live in the UK is impractical. To start with, the three million European citizens who live and work in the UK were never really a plausible bargaining chip given that the bulk of the British population in Europe lives in countries with small numbers of EU citizens living in the UK. It made three million people, their friends and their families nervous, for a whole year and irritated European countries as well. Had the UK made a generous offer to EU citizens straight away, then negotiations may have been easier.
Looking back over the past year now, I wonder if Theresa May really had to trigger Article 50 before agreeing an exit deal? John Kerr, the British diplomat who drafted Article 50, stated that it was a tool of the process designed to maximise the leverage of the remaining members of the block and disadvantage the departing state. A leaving state was never intended to get a good deal out of it. Theresa May’s expectations that she would be able to talk to individual member states was surprising. Article 50 is designed to ensure that agreement is reached by other states about the UK, and therefore it is curious that the UK departing the European Union used Article 50, before the agreement has been reached.
Triggering Article 50 on other European countries who were about to have their own elections couldn’t have been useful, and waiting to see who would be the other parties to the negotiations could have been wiser. David Cameron’s decision to hold the 2016 referendum at the highest of the worst refugee crisis in Europe was described by Michael Portillo as the greatest blunder ever made by a British Prime Minister. After David Cameron’s resignation last summer, Theresa May became the Prime Minister and in her first speech she said that the vote for Brexit was also a vote of protest against the failed economic model, austerity and in work poverty. She told us that Brexit means Brexit. In her Lancaster House speech in January, she explained her preference for a clean Brexit ie., Britain should leave the single market and customs union and be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, post the General Election, the possibility of an alternative to a clean Brexit, for which there is no mandate in the House of Commons, is clear.
Ruth Davidson from the Scottish Conservatives prefers the term Open Brexit and Boris Johnson and Keith Starmer, from Labour, are against what they call an extreme Brexit. Andrew Adonis, the Labour Peer and educationalist, supports Sane Brexit. Sam Tarry a Labour activist wants a People’s Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn wants a Brexit that protects jobs and worker’s rights. It is obvious that internal party disputes have not been resolved by the Brexit referendum.
The phrase of “no deal is better than a bad deal” was disowned this week by Philip Hammond who, is now seeking to secure at least a lengthy transition phase of membership, which might end up as the basis of a long term deal. If May or her successor decide upon a hard Brexit, the French President Macron will have every incentive to drive a hard bargain, and he would want to secure it, for the benefit of trade with its second largest neighbour, and to underpin the long term security of the continent. When Britain leaves the EU, 80% of NATO resources will also be outside the EU, not “a strong and stable” environment for the Union.