sábado, 6 de agosto de 2016
Brexit, a matter of life and death
Brexit, a matter of life and death
By the time the UK finalizes its EU divorce, many in the Leave camp may be long gone.
8/6/16, 6:30 AM CET
As anyone who has got a divorce can confirm, the initial decision for one partner to walk out on the other is the easy part.
It’s all downhill from there. Lawyers get involved. It can take years before there is a settlement. No one is satisfied. Sometimes you end up more miserable than you were in the marriage.
Britain is in the first stages of its divorce from Europe — the U.K. has dumped its old, bossy, deaf partner who never did what it wanted.
Now it’s over to the lawyers and divorce experts. The initial diagnosis isn’t good: It’s all going to take much longer than anyone realized.
We could be faced with the surreal sight of Nigel Farage standing as an MEP in the 2019 European Parliament election.
Leading U.K. Brexiteer and former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood has optimistically written that all the U.K. has to do is repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and, hey presto, Britain would be freed.
This is rather like a Muslim divorce in which a husband says “I divorce you” three times and it’s over. As English High Court battles between wealthy Arab spouses show, this does not work when there is serious money involved.
The U.K. is legally bound to negotiate its withdrawal under Article 50 of the EU Treaty. So far Prime Minister Theresa May has not invoked it.
Article 50 talks are not supposed to last longer than two years. But at the EU’s pace of negotiations, two years is merely foreplay, especially considering the House of Commons will demand regular reports and MPs reassert the U.K. parliament’s role in the matter after all the plebiscite excitement.
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The exit deal the U.K. negotiates will dictate how Brits among the 33,000 European Commission officials will be treated in terms of pensions and benefits, and whether bodies like the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority will move out of London.
This agreement will not define in legal terms how the U.K. does business with the EU on trade, nor determine whether the more than 2 million Brits living in Europe will have freedom of movement. The fate of the many French and Poles living in Britain is still uncertain, as is Britain’s access to the single market and “passporting” rights for City firms.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, for example, has said that outside the legal requirements of the EU, the City cannot keep its lucrative $120 trillion volume business trading and clearing euros.
And if, as is likely, Article 50 talks drag on and the two-year cut-off is extended by common agreement between London and Brussels, the U.K. will still be a full EU member for several years to come. We could be faced with the surreal sight of Nigel Farage standing as an MEP in the 2019 European Parliament election.
As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform has outlined, there are at least six deals the U.K. has to negotiate with the EU. And these do not include how to maintain cooperation on the fight against terrorism, foreign policy, defense, fintech regulation, or climate change.
It is not unheard of for divorced couples to wake up, realize they were so much better off together and tie the knot again.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has said that hammering out these new deals — and making sure they do not disadvantage the U.K. — may take up to six years once the U.K. has officially withdrawn from the Union. Others, like former EU legal chief Jean-Claude Piris, have estimated a five to ten-year period.
During that time much will have changed in the U.K. and in the EU.
In the three years between the Brexit referendum and the European Parliament elections in 2019, 1.26 million British citizens over 65 will die and 2 million will reach the voting age of 18, according to Age U.K.
Given that 75 percent of young voters were in favor of Remain and 60 percent of over 65s voted to Leave, the pro-European camp will increase by 1 million and the Brexit camp go down by 756,000.
Assuming the U.K. won’t deny its people the chance to vote on whatever agreement is finally reached and even allow expat Brits in Europe the right to vote, there may be a pro-EU political majority by the time divorce is finalized.
Unlike married couples, countries that neighbor each other do not get to divorce. And it is not unheard of for divorced couples to wake up, realize they were so much better off together and tie the knot again.
All it would take is a few smart moves from the Commission and the Council, and the slow realization in Britain that the Brexiteers’ promised nirvana of glorious growth, jobs and investment may turn out not to be true. Public opinion can change.
As they say in the Vatican, while there’s death there’s hope. The June 23 vote was not Britain’s last word.
Denis MacShane is a former minister of Europe and author of “Brexit: How Britain Will leave Europe” (IB Tauris, January 2015). He is a senior adviser at Avisa Partners in Brussels.