That is what many folks have said in bemusement and exasperation about Brexit. The British Gazette has repeatedly opined upon the subject. The political class seem to be living in a bizarre alternative reality full of “alternative facts” such as the UK would not be unduly inconvenienced by crashing out of the EU without an agreement!
Such a notion is as absurd as the notion where let us say a rider falls of their horse, dislocates their shoulder and the ex Royal Army Medical Corps paramedic prepares to relocate the shoulder but before he does he smiles and says; “Don’t worry. This won’t hurt!”
Oh yes it will!
Well, in today’s article, we examine another Brexit possibility. A deferment.
The British Gazette has since that Great Midsummer’s Day in 2016 when it became known that the British People had voted for independence, has drawn it’s readers attention to the problems associated with the withdrawal process – Article 50 and the two year clock – and the unrealistic timetables of some Brexiteers wishing to Brexit without maintaining EEA membership.
Thus we along with Messrs. Booker & North have been seeking to point out the dangers and impracticalities involved in Brexiting without implementing Flexcit – aka the Norway option or EFTA+EEA membership.
Our principal concern has been that the UK finds itself outside the EU without an agreement facing the dire economic and trade consequences such would bring about.
However as time has passed certain things have become clear.
It is now apparent that there is not enough time between now to negotiate and conclude even Flexcit, aka the Norway option, in other words, EFTA+EEA.
We now know that Article 50 is to be formerly invoked on Wednesday 29th March 2017.
The EU however has already indicated that the UK will have to wait until June for formal talks to start. Given that there needs to be at least 6 months before 29th March 2019 to get any agreement ratified by all parties, that means the talks proper will take place between the beginning of June 2017 and end of September 2018. That is a period of 486 days or 1 year, 3 months and 29 days.
That is NOT a long time to complete what is inevitably going to be a hugely complicated agreement!
So there would appear to be but two possibilities. A hard Brexit or an extension of the 2 year period. This however requires unanimity of all 27 EU member states.
There appears however to be another possibility. One that Madam May and the rest of the motley crew that constitute the government of this formerly sovereign land could well be aware of but have seen fit not to tell us!
Up to press, we have suggested that “the powers that be” may have planned to avoid the time constraints imposed by Article 50 by concluding a transitional arrangement which would in effect be Flexcit – EFTA+EEA membership but called “a transitional arrangement”.
However, there are two problems with this conjecture:
1. The UK should have been discussing aspects of Flexcit with EFTA for some time now. They have not.
2. The FACT that 486 days or 1 year, 3 months and 29 days is NOT ENOUGH TIME to conclude an EFTA+EEA agreement.
Thus, the outlook for the UK appears to be a very gloomy picture. This is because an agreement cannot be reached AND IMPLEMENTED in 486 days.
You Dear Reader will have noticed we have capitalised the reference to implementing the agreement!
Now let us look again at Article 50, Clause 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.”
Now then, this is where it gets a bit speculative!
Nothing in Article 50 prevents the withdrawal agreement being agreed under qualified majority, with a “date of entry into force” of a specific date that may or may not be subject to change. Provided the agreement has been concluded and ratified before the two year period is up, it can take effect at any time in the future and while an extension of the two year period would require unanimity, a deferred “entry into force” only requires a qualified majority.
Such an option has to be considered. Without sufficient time to conclude an agreement, the ONLY way to avoid a Hard Brexit (and it’s chaotic consequences) appears to be to have an incomplete agreement agreed and ratified on the basis that it will only come into effect when all the provisions are agreed!
Thus this will mean that since the agreement will not have entered into force, the EU treaties will still apply! Because the two year clock applies only in the case of an agreement not been concluded the treaties will still be extant after March 2019. Because the agreement will not have entered into force!
In these circumstances the UK will in effect have left the EU as the agreement to leave will have been agreed and duly ratified by all parties. Thus, in a legal sense, Brexit will have been achieved. However, it’s effects will have been deferred! Some effects however will become effective with no delay. The UK will be excluded from the decision making process such as the European Council and the European Parliament. And yet because the UK will still be bound by the treaties during the deferment, the UK will be subject to ALL decisions arrived at by these bodies.
In this sense the UK will effectively have become a dependent territory of the EU! Just like Ghana was before they gained independence on 6th March 1957!
Now, how long could it take for the agreement to be concluded? Easily a decade!
Surely it would have to become as clear as day to even the most blinkered Tory backbench MPs that the way to shorten this purgatory is for the UK to adopt Flexcit – aka the “Norway Option” – aka EFTA+EEA!
Now there is another aspect that we must take into account. The RAL payments. The EU envisages this could be as high as £60 billion! This of course is something the UK negotiators will not want to pay. Thus expect this figure to be payable only when the agreement comes into effect!
The obvious political danger is this:
The Europhiles in the Tory party, the Liberal Democrats and Labour will all suggest that the agreement is never implemented and that Brexit is reversed.
Of course many will suggest that this will go down like a lead balloon insofar as the opinion of the British Public is concerned!
Expect this to be the major issue at the next general election in May 2020 or before!
It is likely that the Labour party and the Lib-Dems will insist of a second EU referendum.
However, IF people are thinking that the withdrawal agreement can simply be cancelled with the Foreign Secretary going to the EU and saying; “We’ve had an election and we’ve changed our mind. We want to repeal the withdrawal decision and revert to the status quo ante 29th March 2017.”
This is because the UK is no longer a member of the EU!
The awful fact is that the UK would have to renegotiate it’s re-entry into the EU. Which could well mean adopting the Euro! This is because that paragon of judicial impartially, the European Court of Justice will have decreed that the UK had formally left the EU when the agreement was concluded and ratified and NOT when it came into force – which of course it would not have!
Of the UK’s politicians it could reasonably be concluded that they will have scored the greatest own goal in the history of own goals. They will be rightly judged as being the most incompetent crew of imbeciles in the long history of Europe!