With the exception of the overseas French territory of Saint Barthélemy, no country has ever left the European Union. Greenland left its predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1985. Exit negotiations, in that case, took more than 100 meetings over three years. Given that the EEC was a slimmer organisation than the EU, that negotiations were mainly over one subject – fish – and that Greenland has a population smaller than Bracknell or Bury, this should set alarm bells ringing for the UK.
One of the men who has said to have written Article 50, Giulano Amato, says that it was written thinking it would never be used:
My intention was that it should be a classic safety valve that was there, but never used. It is like having a fire extinguisher that should never have to be used. Instead, the fire happened.
Once we invoke Article 50, we then have a clock ticking for a two year period. It seems obvious that the EU could just play for time. It could be rather like a football team being surprised to find themselves one goal up, and pulling all its players back into defence and passing the ball around between each other. So, yes, they’ll consider allowing us a measure of control over immigration while we remain in the single market or with “tarrif-free access” to the single market. And then they’ll consider and consider. Meetings will follow meetings. Obfuscation will follow obfuscation. Any one of the 27 remaining members of the EU or the four members of EFTA could veto such a deal. And then we find the two years is nearly up. And we don’t have a good deal on offer.
What do we do? Take the bad deal on offer? Allow the UK to default to non-membership – to “hard Brexit” and more negotiations to put in place “WTO rules”?
Or do we revoke Article 50 or hold a general election or referendum to somehow find a way out of the impasse?
Our negotiating position will be very weak.
I’m reminded of the comments on an FT article recently written by Conservative MP, Bernard Jenkin, where he argued that the UK should exit the EU as swiftly and simply as possible:
The only danger with Brexit is that we are too fearful of it. We should embrace it and aim to leave in months rather than years. This will put the UK in the strongest position, and we will secure the freedom to develop trade with non-EU countries much more quickly.
It’s worth reading the “Most recommended” comments beneath this article. The top such comment from “Peter” presents a withering condemnation of Mr Jenkin’s view:
A hard Brexit is inevitable if Article 50 is invoked.
Europe knows it stands to make a nett gain of anywhere and perhaps more of between £250 to $500 billion in transferred trade, manufacturing and services in under 5 years after a hard Brexit. Set aside the quiet pleasure of watching us slide into a black hole dragged down by our $1.5 trillion plus deficit. All the EU will lose on a nett commercial basis is our goodwill, and of course a tiny £8 billion annual nett social contribution.
I do not see anyone in Europe missing a minute’s sleep over the loss of British goodwill.
The EU negotiating stance is completely harmonised: “No negotiation, get out now.” The WTO stance is equally clear – maybe you get in 5 or even 10 years after you Brexit, but negotiate with and accept the rules of 159 nations, or you are on your own. Anyone here for US GMO food and hormone fed T bone steaks landed Folkestone at half the UK wholesale price? Perhaps Mr Jenkins can explain this to the NFU annual general meeting in person.
Only a fool of a businessman would assume there is a great deal to be struck. How much insight do you have to demonstrate to become Chair of a select committee these days?
Mr Jenkins ignorance of international trade and his pathological hatred of the EU make him a classic Brexiteer. No rational insights, no sensible analysis of the facts, no analysis, just “Fire up the Spitfire Biggles, hurrah!”
It’s worth reading the comment in full here.