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What is a UK EU exit negotiation likely to look like?
The answer depends on who is doing the negotiating.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of political mechanics, let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves of what happened,for we cannot make predictions about the divorce settlement without understanding who wanted what, and why.
The neoliberal agenda that has actively promoted the act of wealth transfusion from the masses to the top 1% has created an atmosphere of abject despair all over the western world although the decades long pillage has been applied in asymmetric geographical patterns. In the UK, the North of England, best known to Americans via the accents of Game of Throne Stark family members, is one such region, existing as it does as little more than a pale facsimile of forgotten prosperity. Fears of a recession among a population who feel they have nothing to lose is small beer compared to the palpable sense of powerlessness in the face of political elitism.The small C conservatives of England and Wales rejected neoliberalism with as much vigor as the swathe of Sanders supporters did in America and yet, the political mechanics of the UK, though vastly different from the USA’s, have prevented any attempt on their part to force a divergent path in the mind-set of the intelligentsia. Their analysis of the paucity and helplessness of their situation was spot on, their solution, less so. They blamed foreigners for their plight, a scapegoating cleeshay as old as history and depressingly weary for it.
It’s important to note that not all vote leavers are racist. For many, it was more about change of culture; they forgot, or perhaps chose not to remember the fact that culture always changes. The culture of today is different to even that of the recent past, there’s a reason why we assign themes to decacdes; to those looking back to the 1970s, Britain must seem a much changed place and in thirty years’ time it will have shifted again. The older demographic, has always rallied against the values of the young and here, it was no different; they wanted the England of their youth back and not one of them seems to have realised that such a thing could never come to pass. The campaign played to these desires but they did so by promulgating lies, by suggesting that we could return to those hacylon days. Good jobs, reasonable standards of living, security and pride, these are things people should aspire to which is a pity because the neoliberal elite have zero intention of delivering any of them. Some, too many, were blinded by the promise, as a light was shone in their eyes, a light several shades whiter than the one they were told to get used to. Politicians were helpless to address the seedy undercurrent of xenophobia creeping into discussions of nation. Today, all but the most ardent racists deny that they are prejudiced in any way shape of form and with such denial, comes anger at any hint of accusation despite caveat laden ‘I’m not racist but…’ statements flagging their racism as visibly as a swatika tatoo might. Angry, is the last thing a politician wants the electorate to be or at least, they don’t want the anger directed at them; so they danced around the issue, they softened the blow and insisted that fears over immigration had nothing to do with race, had nothing to do with prejudice.
Which is of course, total hogwash.
See any white faces in this Pro Brexit poster?
Racism played a huge part in this referendum and those people who voted leave should remember that they gave their tacit support to far-right groups and racial purists up and down the country and across Europe. Indeed, racists have taken the decision to leave Europe as a validation that their view is somehow, once again, politically legitimate. Incidents of racial violence, somewhat predictibly, skyrocketed in the days after the vote.
However, the motivation of the voters is a world apart from the motivations of the respective campaign leaders, especially in the case of the Leave campaign which for very obvious reasons, could not spell out precisely why it was that they hated the EU so much. The Remain campaign by contrast did not need to resort to such subterfuge, since in their minds, the public either wanted or at least should want what it was they were peddling. Let’s take a moment to review what the leadership of each side wanted and clear away the rhetoric and lies in doing so.
•Ideological. The EU represents in the mind of the Remain leaders a move towards a more peaceful Europe, one free of the internecine bickering and unfettered competition of the past, one better suited to a post-World War II world. Co-operation in this sense, trumps competition.
•Economic. The rise of China, an inevitability once they got their act together, created a paradigm shift in power. The UK’s economy, currently around a 4th the size of China’s will be a 10th the size of China’s by around 2050. Without delving too heavily into advanced economic theory, this shift in ratio is very, very bad for trade deals. The EU as a whole on the other hand has a larger economy than China today and will have a larger economy than China in 2025. By forcing countries like China and the USA to deal with Europe as a block, prosperity, whilst not guaranteed, is more likely. Post Brexit, the UK is even worse off and experts have already noted that the UK is as of now the 8th largest economy in the world dropping to 10th place if Scotland leaves and 11th place if Northern Ireland follows suit. The little England of 2050 is unlikely to remain in the top 20.
•Social. There is a way out of the realities of geopolitical shifts in power but it is, as we shall see, unpalatable to all but the most die-hard neoliberals.
•Power. In the case of Boris Johnson, it was a simple grab for power. He was never a real Eurosceptic but rather, saw two opportunities. Firstly, that he might be able to oust David Cameron and replace him as leader and secondly, that he might use a ‘leave’ vote to broker serious reform in the EU which to be fair, is badly needed.all of which would make sense if it wasn’t for the fact that Johnson, clearly upset that his side had won, decided not to run for the leadership at all. in a move summed up brilliant by this Facebook post gone viral .
•Economic. The realities of the changes in geopolitical and economic power were not lost on any of the Leave campaigns leaders but they had their sights set firmly on a slightly different solution to the problem. The EU created something of a level playing field when it came to workers’ rights, restricting the number of hours worked, granting paid sick leave maternity leave and so on and so forth. Whilst there was no provision for minimum wage, the Maastricht treaty did offer routes of appeal from those who believed their wage was unfair. The result? Well the UK passed the Minimum Wage Act in 1998, a move opposed by the Conservative opposition of the day.Prior to the Minimum Wage Act a worker could appeal to the Wages Council which was set up in 1945 and opposed by the Tories, to ensure that workers received reasonable remuneration for their time but alas, it was abolished in 1993 by the Conservative government via the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act.
For five glorious years, employers could pay people whatever the hell they liked and there was nothing anyone could do about it; £1 an hour jobs were not uncommon, indeed, I worked one. An exit from the EU would remove workers’ rights in a single blow and the UK, what was left of it, would have absolutely no obligation to restore a single one of them. To remove the minimum wage itself would be political suicide and I expect that the hard righters know this, but they can sure as hell freeze it and let inflation do the devaluation for them. This second economic model, a model where the poor get even poorer, a model where workers’ rights are effectively reset to their pre- Maastricht levels is not completely insane,to be sure, we must remember that the Conservative government opted out of every single one of these provisions. when John Major, with an adviser literally perched under the table passing him notes, refused to sign the social chapter, Bill and let’s be clear there is no British law that grants this; once we leave its gone and there’s a long long list of workers rights to say bye bye to. Directives on health and safety, working conditions, consultation of workers, sex equality with regard to job opportunities and treatment at work and protection of pensioners and unemployed. Gone. Pregnant women’s 14 weeks’ statutory leave post Brexit will fall back to pre Maastricht levels of six weeks at 90 per cent pay, and 12 weeks on a reduced allowance; the 48-hour maximum working week is gone. Legislation giving part-time and temporary staff who work at least eight hours a week the same employment rights, social security and contractual benefits as full-time workers; gone. The Tories successfully opposed all these measures and Labour will be hard pressed to give them back considering how little else we’ll have going for us in the post EU world. With no European court to appeal to, no Wages Council and comparatively shitty working conditions, Britain gains a competitive edge. Oh, we cannot compete with wages in places like India, but we have the advantages of proximity and infrastructure. The UK, can become the sweatshop of Europe; prosperity for the few, longer hours and lower pay for the many.Karl Marx would be so pleased. It’s certainly no coincidence that the working classes were led into this fiasco by multimillionaires and that Brexit has been applauded only by the likes of Billionaires such as Putin and Trump.Were it not for Blair reversing the decision, we’d still not have them today. The motivation and ideology is there to be seen then. We exit Europe, keep access to the free market by allowing the free movement of labour to continue unabated, but wheedle out of pesky workers’ rights. Certainly, no Tory government is going to put forward a mandatory sick pay
• Ideological. There’s no Patriot Act in the UK and one of the reasons is that European human rights acted as an umbrella legislation covering the UK. The erosion of human rights has also, long been a dream of the hard right and as with labour laws, they have swept away many protections in one go.
Ok, we’re almost there, but before we continue, we must remember that any analysis of the exit negotiations requires the following very important caveat.
An assumption must be made that they are carried out by a pro-Brexit government led by a pro Brexit leader. An early general election is not a certainty but it is a distinct possibility and at this point,only a fool would try to predict the outcome of one. Boris Johnson was likely to be the Prime Minister in the interim at least,or least that’s where the smart money was until it turned out that he wasn’t running after all. The Labour party is in chaos and whilst I doubt even a leadership change would give them cause to reverse direction on Brexit, they would negotiate a very different deal to Johnson, Fox, or May, the three most likely candidates for leadership of the Tories.
So, assuming that we have a pro Brexit government, we can summarise what they would want from the negotiation.
1. Access to the single market. To my knowledge, only Liam Fox seems to think we don’t need this. This is a neoliberal coup lets us not forget, however much the working class think the victory theirs, and as such, the negotiations are about the only thing neoliberals care about, money or more specifically, their money and the money of the oligarchy they represent. The cost of access is most certainly going to be the free movement of labour, a betrayal of leave voters that they know will come back to haunt them. Some attmpt therfore must be made to soothe the beating hearts of the public with some kind of sophist fudge. Regardless of what they say, in both the long and short term, immigration will probably increase.
2. A veritable bonfire of workers’ rights. If Britain is to follow their line of thought, then many if not all of our EU granted rights must be allowed to dissipate, otherwise, what’s the point of leaving at all? This will be argued on the basis that ‘Britain should decide its own laws,’ some Magna Carta inspired BS that is only slightly more believable than the idea that xenophobia was not rife amongst the leave faithful. Of course, the laws will never be implemented or if they are, they will be watered down in order to provide a competitive edge that is absolutely vital to a post Brexit Britain. The EU is likely to view this with suspicion since the level playing field was about ensuring that they too remained competitive but let’s not forget, they backed down before, when Major refused to have anything to do with such provisos. A compromise may be reached but it’s liable to be that one neither side is completely happy with.
3. An opt out of human rights protections in general and certainly, refusal to engage with the European Court of Human rights in any way other than lip service.
And that’s it, that’s what, in a nutshell the four Brexiteers, Redwood, Fox, Gove and Fucktanion himself, Nigel Farage want. The perceptive amongst you might note that these objectives don’t really line up with what the British people wanted or indeed have ever asked for, on either side of the vote, but such is the nature of sophistry.
The British people should have read their Plato.
A nation wishing to leave the European Union may do so at any time by invoking limit, which I deem likely. Of critical importance is the notion that an exit strategy is only part of the process, there is also the not inconsequential matter for negotiating what kind of relationship the UK will have with the rest of Europe after they have exited.of the Lisbon treaty which, as most people know, is the glue that binds the whole EU together. The nation withdrawing from the union must give notice and upon doing so, begins a process lasting no longer than two years, unless member states agree to extend this time
So in a nutshell, the UK will negotiate with the European Council as to the relationship the UK will have with Europe, which most of the Brexiteers want to be close and vibrant, and these decisions will then be ratified by the European parliament, an odd procedure since most Eurosceptics insist that the EU is fundamentally undemocratic. One might note the UK has representatives on the council and in the parliament but in this special case, they will not be involved in either the discussions or the process itself. At the point at which the UK gives notice that it is invoking article 50, the process is very hard to put in reverse and perversely, typically for Europe, the procedure for requesting that we re-join, a demographic certainty if the EU survives, is contained in the preceding article, article 49.
Sitting Prime Minister David Cameron has not invoked article 50 and is not going to; he has already stated that it will up to his successor to do so.That being the case, the earliest possible date for an exit seems to be October 2018. Several things make this date unlikely. Firstly, although there is nothing at all stopping anyone from exiting earlier than two years, the complexity of the negotiations themselves would leave even the most ardent nationalists begging for more time. The EU may, or may not play hardball and if they decide to rid themselves of the UK, or rather what’s left of it once and for all, they are perfectly within their rights to pull the plug exactly two years after article 50 is invoked. And UK legislators know it. Boris Johnson has been quite clear that he sees no point in rushing things and EU ministers are just as clear that no secret conversations are to be held with the British government until 50 is revoked.
Where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us with a 50+ 2 scenario, that is, the UK will leave the EU around 2 years after article 50 has been activated. All of which suggests that an actual exit date is not likely to occur until 2019 and 2020 is not out of the question either. During that time, as it becomes apparent that the free movement of labour is going to continue unabated, resentment from both sides of the aisle may well destabilize the whole process and trigger if not a second referendum then perhaps a climb down of magnificent proportions. A national mea culpa is completely out of the question, a sizable proportion of the British electorate desires divorce at any cost whatsoever, though my guess is that in most cases, the more discerning among us outweigh the over-sized mandibles of the die-hard nationalists, even if we would politely refuse invitations to wrestle with them.
Still, is there another option? Might article 50 never even be invoked? The EU has urged Britain to begin the process immediately but has no power to force it to do so.A desire to steer clear of an actual exit still lies in the hands of those who wield sovereign power and that’s not the people, it’s parliament. The concept of voting out to get a ‘better’ deal for the UK is not without merit, though, let us not forget, better for the multimillionaires running the leave campaign means more money for their kind of people and less for everyone else.
According to Professor John Curtice, of the University of Strathclyde there are two realistic ways that Brexit might not occur.
“If Boris Johnson is running the Government and if (disengagement from the EU) is taking a long time to be implemented, two years down the line we could have another poll showing people actually want to reverse the decision and remain in.”
Well Johnson isn’t going to be PM and the next likely candidate seems to be Theresa May. She campaigned for in, but really,s he wanted out so who knows what the hell she’s going to do with the rapidly deteriorating mandate.
In fact, early pols are already suggesting buyer’s remorse with over a million people apparently wanting to switch their vote leaving the leave camp with a majority of somewhere along the lines of 300,000 people.With the pound in a slump, house prices already down by 5% and the prospect of higher taxes as the result of Brexit, that figure could rise over time. Or it might not. We’ll just have to see.
Professor Curtice also noted a second way in which Brexit might not occur.
“There could be a situation where the opposition party in a general election have a mandate to hold a new referendum on it.”
Such an idea is even harder to put into context but the basic premise is sound. A political party stands for election at some point beforeis invoked or possibly, even after it has been, on an explicit platform of wishing to remain in the EU. Were that party to form a government then the democratic will of the people would have been served and parliament would quite rightly no longer be honor bound to uphold the referendum. I’m afraid that the mouth breathers will not see it this way. What’s tricky about this notion is that it’s hard to know what party could win an election on such a promise. UKIP would vigorously oppose such a move and any party advocating a reversal of the decision would face dissent from a sizable proportion of their own ‘side’ as it were. I have no idea what parliament would look like in such a scenario but were I Labour, I’d point to the lies concerning immigration, point to the erosion of labour laws and the economic downturn, and then throw themselves behind a pro EU ticket with the Liberal Democrats. It might work, it might not but if they won, Brexit would not occur.
There is however, a third option. As Farage noted prior to the vote a 48/52 split would indeed mean ‘unfinished business.’Of course, he said that when it looked like he might lose and now he has won, his position has changed. What’s done is done. And I would agree with him, in most cases. The call for a second referendum has to be predicated on what is known as a ‘substantive’ change in the circumstances that provoked the vote in the first place. For example, were the UK to vote in a Referendum that they no longer want to be part of NATO, (not that such a thing would likely be put to the vote but bear with me,) an exit could occur in an orderly fashion. Six months later, a military coup in Russia followed by threats to ‘invade Poland and then keep rolling west’ might give the British public pause for thought. Polls would be taken and a second, hasty referendum called, reversing the prior decision to the tune of a collective sigh of relief from those that voted in and those who voted out first time round, A referendum on August 1st 2016 can be overruled by another one on August 1st 2017 and there is nothing undemocratic about that, so long as a good reason exists for holding another round other than us not liking the result.
The question is, what kind of substantive change has to occur? The most obvious example is that the United Kingdom faces fragmentation as a result of Brexit. (Ireland, London and Scotland voted to remain in the EU and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that Scotland will remain in the EU, even if that means leaving the United Kingdom. The stakes then, have been raised and the question may have to be asked again. Is divorce from the EU worth the disintegration of the most successful political union in history? The Leave camp, well, some of them, would say yes and may well win another vote; such an act would certainly settle the matter. Then again, people may never trust leave again; they admitted they had lied about several key points less than 24 hours after victory.Northern
Politicians will do what they are good at doing; spinning things. We will be told that the UK has a much better deal now and that it is right and proper that we affirm such a momentous decision with a second ‘are you absolutely sure,’ vote.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Now is a time to reflect on such issues and to plan the fightback if it ever comes. The EU should’ve done more to connect to the people, it should have shown the direct benefit to their lives in Hull, Huddersfield, Jarrow and alike. Wales ( ) and Cornwall,( ) both areas that voted to leave the EU, are now demanding that the rather large over-sized subsidies they got from the EU be honored by the British government – but with estimates that Brexit is going to cost the economy £350 million every 2-3 days which, ironically is the false figure leave said we spent on the EU per week ( ,) – it seems unlikely the UK will be able to honor such spending commitments, no matter how much such areas whine; David Cameron seems to agree,
Still, the U.K. government shouldn’t have pushed neoliberal austerity as much they did, they could have focused their attention on social mobility and economic redistribution; they chose not to. The north of England never really recovered from the changes in the fortunes of the UK economy during the 1970s and such issues have not been redressed (except, ironically in certain areas via EU funded projects that are now begging for the funding to stay and the foreigners to leave.) Brits won’t get their cake and eat it, there is no way that they should be able to move freely for a job or retire to Spain whilst foaming at the mouth when it happens the other way around; I cannot see European leaders being so amiable as to allow it in the future. Significant numbers voted as a protest against austerity and didn’t think leave would win, I get the impression some leave campaigners are having a ‘be careful what you wish for moment’ remembering that Daniel Hannan the Tory Eurosceptic MEP, admitted the points system may mean more migration from Europe () He will not be the last of the Leave camp to say so. And we might take comfort in such things, the slow realization from leave voters that they just might have been conned, that they did not get any of the things they wanted, however misguided their desires may have been. That they lost quite a few things they will come to miss in the coming years. We could scoff at Wales and Cornwall’s shameful cap in hand crawl to Westminster, begging for funding that is never going to come to them, after voting to leave so decisively. We could laugh at the mothers forced to work a few weeks after giving birth, or mock the workers dragging themselves into work full of a cold for fear of being short of the rent since the minimum wage freeze began to sink its teeth into their income. We could do that. But that’s how we got in this mess to begin with, by sneering at the poor as they sneered back at the rich. To fix this we need to unify, we need to return this country to a place where reason prevails over fear-mongering, where inclusivity means just that, a decent working environment for all.
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