How is UK to leave EU?

My former colleague Gerry Lynch recently posted this on Facebook:

The will of the people must be respected. Which will is that? The will that the UK can get its cake and eat it with the EU more than it already had, with all the benefits and none of the costs of membership? Or the will said the UK is a great country and can thrive entirely outside European structures and has no need of the single market? Or the will that said that immigration was too high and the undoubted costs of leaving the EU were worth getting the level of immigration under control? Or the will that said immigration was great and the UK should lead the world as a tariff free, regulation free, country with the minimum possible border controls? Or the will that just wanted to stick the finger to Cameron and Osborne (both of whom have been forgotten in an amazingly short space to time)?

Too right. 

So here is a straightforward challenge to those who want the UK to leave the EU – tell us how. And here is a straightforward platform – do it right here, on this blog!

Any comment on this blog post either directly here or on Facebook will be taken as an offer of a guest blog post, next Tuesday (and Tuesdays thereafter if there are more than one). Let’s hear it!

Meanwhile, here is how I would do it. Well, of course, I wouldn’t leave at all. But here is how I would attempt to respect the will of the people without collapsing the economy or causing constitutional chaos.

I would put an offer to the heads of government across the rest of the EU stating as follows:

  • from 1 July 2017, for six years, the UK will place a cap on the number of people allowed entry to the country from the Schengen Zone for the purposes of work, announcing that cap six months in advance each year;
  • also from that date, the UK will take over the full operation of its international aid budget (knocking around £20-£30 million off its contribution to the EU budget);
  • during that seven-year period, the UK will remain a member of the EU on the terms negotiated by David Cameron, but will agree to leave the room for discussions pertinent to the Single Currency or the Schengen Zone;
  • after four years (from June 2021), the UK will negotiate with the European Council the terms under which free movement within the Single Market will work into and out of the Schengen Zone, and on the basis of that negotiation the UK will then make a decision specifically on whether or not to remain within or leave the Single Market (determining its future relationship with the EU on the basis of that decision).

What is in this for the various sides?

For everyone (the European Council, the UK Government, Leave supporters and Remain supporters), the headache of how precisely the UK goes about leaving the EU is postponed for a reasonable duration while it is worked out.

For many Leave voters, the UK reclaims “control of its borders” – forever, if it so chooses (but on the understanding that maintaining such “control” into the next decade means restructuring the economy to leave the Single Market). This should appeal at least to some of those who voted on “sovereignty”, and to almost all those who voted on “immigration”. Those who don’t much like “international aid” will also see this restored to the UK and thus some money brought back to the UK (even if this is actually somewhat irrational).

For Remain voters, the debate is shifted to where it should be – the Single Market. Ultimately the future decision is not EU or no EU, but Single Market or no Single Market. This is a recognition of the reality that the UK does not get to set the terms alone of remaining within the Single Market.

For the European Council, there is at least a window of opportunity to re-define the EU somewhat, making the “core EU” (Single Currency and Schengen Zone) distinct from the “associate EU” (the Single Market without the Single Currency and Schengen Zone). Not only might it be possible to avoid any member state technically leaving under this new dispensation (the obvious risk being if the UK goes, so might the likes of Sweden), but it may even be possible to tempt countries such as Norway and Iceland in, since the “associate” membership option is not far from EEA, but with a common and clear framework.

For the UK Government, there is the chance to reflect that concerns raised in the referendum about immigration have been fully taken into account; but also that concerns raised concerning economic reconfiguration and the difficulties with the legal changes required to leave the EU have also been given time for resolution.

For Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is at least time here to determine exactly what they would do, should the UK opt to leave the Single Market; and, presumably, to make the case not to. For the Republic of Ireland, there is also a window of opportunity to consider exactly what its interests are with regard to free trade and movement with the UK, versus with the rest of the EU.

The UK Government’s external core argument would be that it is a little rich for other EU member states to lecture on how important absolute free movement is, when in fact only the UK (alongside Ireland and Sweden) implemented it upon the EU’s expansion in 2004. It would be precisely because the UK took in so many EU citizens from that date that it would be making the case for not having to do so now; as well as being on a separate land mass and outside the Schengen Zone. Its internal core argument would be that leaving the EU takes time and needs to be subject to further detailed consideration, but that the direction of travel is now established without a reasonable counter offer towards a looser EU.

Surely, of course, the European Council would reject such an offer? Well, maybe. But maybe not. You don’t know until you try. Actually my bet is the European Council would accept the offer – after all, there is no institution in the world more expert at can-kicking-down-the-road.

Impossible? Impractical? Not actually respecting the will of the people? Well then, your turn… right here, next Tuesday…

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9 thoughts on “How is UK to leave EU?

  1. […] last week’s post on “Brexit” we can now safely say Brexiteers have no idea. Literally, at least with regard to those […]

  2. […] The crux of Northern Ireland’s conflict was (and is) identity, and EU membership was central to making it not matter. Doing anything which makes it matter at best risks a precarious balance. Frankly, this is a very good reason for the UK Government reconsidering the whole idea of leaving the EU. The fact is that most people who voted to leave the EU are not going to get out of “Brexit” what they really wanted to get out of it – regardless of what that is. Is it really a good idea, on the basis of a very narrow referendum result, to risk decades of careful work creating a balance which works in Northern Ireland, and thus keeps the whole UK as safe as it reasonably can be from Irish terrorism? It is, at the very least, worth considering whether the desires of those who voted to “leave” can be met in other ways. […]

  3. […] asked, way back on 30 August, for thoughts from those who voted Leave about how the UK should actually go about leaving the […]

  4. […] of course, it cannot be delivered upon. A competent Government would admit that, and move on to Plan B. Sadly, a competent government is not remotely what we […]

  5. J.H. says:

    I know this was posted some time ago, but just coming across it now my thoughts are that this would be a non-starter for the EU. Despite what many seem to think (or want to think), to the best of my knowledge, the only EU member which has seen consistent majority support in any opinion polls has been the UK. This doesn’t mean other EU members haven’t seen eurosceptic majorities in opinion polls. It is just that this euroscepticism differs markedly from the variety seen in the UK. In the UK, a lot of euroscepticism equates the EU with Beast of Babylon/Beast of Revelation. In many other countries, euroscepticism seems the EU as innately desirable but opposes the reach of the EU into certain areas (such as a single currency, or some other policy measure).

    Apart from Ireland all the countries of the EU are in (or will be in) the Schengen zone. Ireland only remains out due to the UK having decided to remain out. Ireland wanted to maintain the Common Travel Area. The UK is very unlikely to ever want to join the Schengen zone even under this plan, so Ireland won’t get to join Schengen either unless:

    a. Northern Ireland secedes and joins the Republic, thereby removing the primary reason that Ireland has for maintaining the CTA

    b. Ireland decides it wants to join Schengen anyway even with NI remaining in the UK.

    With regards to the single currency, the countries that are still on the outside are essentially free to take their time to join, so there isn’t any real upside to this plan. They already have what this plan promotes.

    • Indeed, events dear boy…

      What would be in it for the EU would be to maintain its second largest member taking account of particular circumstances. I suspect Germany in particular would go for that, as it does not want to be thrust into a sole leadership position.

      We could always ask and see! But to negotiate with no cards is never wise.

  6. […] Theresa May went into the election seeking an increased mandate for a line which was essentially “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The people spoke, and said “Actually, no Brexit is better than a bad Brexit“. […]

  7. […] once again, I propose this as a sensible compromise starting […]

  8. J.H. says:

    Having been lead back to this post by a recent post on the need for Leavers and Remainers to compromise, it also occurrs to me that the proposed July 1, 2017 cap would be illegal under EU rules until the UK has already left the EU.

    Thinking on it, this would be my proposed plan instead:

    ¤ The UK proposes to sign an association agreement with the EU that would contain the following elements:

    – a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement along the lines of the ones with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia but modified to include major elements from the EEA agreement on the single market, however it would incorporate all the EU legislation as on the free movement of persons as it existed in 1990-1991 (so only those with job offers, retirees and students and dependents of such persons could stay longer than 3 months – this would apply to EU citizens moving to the UK and vice versa)

    – a customs union agreement modelled on the the ones with San Marino or Turkey (depending on such the UK and EU mutually preferred) but with at least decision shaping procedures similar to the EEA so that the UK gets consulted and can comment on customs union matters including new free trade treaties (and vice versa where the UK negotiates trade treaties that might not ostensibly affect the customs union directly as Turkey can do for agricultural goods and for services)

    – a customs security agreement along the lines of the ones with Norway and Switzerland which will assist in facilitating speedy customs procedures

    – Euratom association

    – ECAA association

    ¤ a transition period lasting 3 years from the date of Brexit

    ¤ all persons currently in the UK under free movement rules would be given automatic indefinite leave to remain unless they didn’t want it and all UK citizens in the EU under free movement rules would be given permanent residency in their country of residence unless they decided they didn’t want it

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