- Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. 3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. 4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
Observant followers will have noticed that this resurrected blog has not lived up to its self-stated goal of an article on average once a week. The reasons are simple. The goal itself is probably over-optimistic; and during the holiday period of the UK, very little of substance has occurred regarding the Brexit process. The great majority of news has been” Silly Season” stuff and not worth bothering my discriminating readers with.
One thing has become crystal-clear. Scotland is not on a fast-track into the EU or to Independence. Constitutionally nothing can be negotiated until the need for a new relationship between Scotland and Rest UK (rUK) has been agreed upon. Ms. May is not giving priority to that topic, however much Ms. Sturgeon complains. A vociferous but probably small Scottish faction is agitating on the Internet for a quick “second” Independence referendum (actually it would be the third) This would be a bad strategy. The arguments for a Scotland that is ultimately part of the EU and independent from an rUK that is not part of the EU, are different and even more complicated than those of 2014. As long as no one knows how Brexit is actually going to look, there is no point in muddying the waters by further meaningless speculations.
Ms. Sturgeon is under no illusions as to what Brexit means for the Scottish economy. A Scottish government report concludes that the cost of Brexit to Scotland will be between £2 and £11 billion per year over the period to 2030, with a corresponding reduction in tax revenue. She has introduced a bill in Holyrood that is intended to buffer some of the immediate negative effects. Quite apart from Brexit issues, the value of oil revenues from the North Sea has plummeted, showing that the “No” side of the referendum was not all wrong in its criticism of Independence.
The pro-Brexit elements of the media, such as The Telegraph and the Daily Express, have been mocking the pessimistic economic projections made by the Remain movement. For example, the property market has not collapsed. This can to some extent be attributed to the prompt action of the Bank of England which immediately cut interest rates and provided £40 billion of quantitative easing (QE). In the two months since the referendum the value of the pound has fallen by 11% against both the Euro and the dollar, a situation that may worsen if QE does not work as intended. The large depreciation may bring home the realities of Brexit to UK tourists when they order a meal in Munich or a bottle of bubbly in Barcelona.
The euphoria of the Brexiteers is likely to be short-lived. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that loss of access to the single market will cut GDP growth by 4% and be particularly harmful for financial services. The true cost of Brexit is something that our grandchildren may find out. A figure of £5 billion of spread over the next decade has been quoted for the cost of the two new departments that are being set up within government: the Department for Exiting the European Union under David Davis and the Department for International Trade under Liam Fox. Serious shortages of experienced UK negotiators are forecast (for example, 20 UK to 600 EU trade experts) and in-fighting between the Foreign Office and the Department of International Trade has already begun, leading to salaries of up to £5,000/day being paid to top consultants.
As to the Brexit process itself, the main topic of speculation is when Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the first step of the negotiating process, will actually be triggered. Buoyed by their unexpected victory in the referendum, hard-line Brexiteers are claiming that the trigger should be pulled before the end of the year and the negotiations completed within two years. I don’t suppose those persons have actually bothered to read the Treaty of Lisbon, article 218, which sets out how such negotiations are to be structured. It’s easy to google and takes only a little longer to understand. More realistic estimates of the time required range from 5 – 10 years to infinity. There are strong arguments for Ms. May not to pull the trigger until at least 2017. The former Attorney General and now MP Dominic Grieve, believes that parliamentary approval to invoke Article 50 is necessary, implying that this permission might not be given.
“Brexit means Brexit” negotiations will not take place against a static background of European or UK politics. 2017 will see general elections in Germany, Holland and France which will bring in fresh faces and opinions to a range of EU organs. The next UK General Election is scheduled for 2020. If the Labour Party chaos continues into the autumn, Ms. May might be tempted to call a snap general election before the end of the year. Whichever time scale kicks in, it is virtually certain that the UK will have a General Election before Brexit is complete. The Brexit process would certainly be the main topic of election manifestos. Constitutionally, therefore, there is still a theoretical chance that the referendum decision might be repealed by the electorate and/or the next parliament.
TV viewers in Sweden have just seen the last instalment of “The Hollow Crown”. The series showed a broad range of the treatments given to those seen to be traitors, or simply disposable. Beheading, suffocating, hanging, drawing and quartering were all ways of getting even with enemies of the State and the favourite setting for these spectacles was The Tower of London. More recently blood-letting has given way to impeachment but the Tower is still standing. Perhaps some post-modernistic Shakespeare will write a play in which Boris, Nigel, David and Liam are impeached, found guilty of High Treason and locked up in the Tower to eke out their remaining days on a diet of snails whose best-before date has expired, stale baguettes and disgusting cheap vin rouge. No fate is too bad for those lying scoundrels.