It’s happened, Article 50 is initiated. And the long walk to the political suicide of a nation has begun. Well, by long walk, I mean it depends whether you think that two years from now we’ll have a trade agreement, and everything that we wanted to be ‘in control of’ is under our control. Or whether you think, as I do, that nothing will be under our control and a trade agreement will still be a twinkle, or a mote in Theresa May’s eye, and that it will take years for us to understand and come to terms with this ghastly decision we, apparently, have made.
However, instead of ranting I want to look closer at some points, that go some way towards explaining my attitude and doubts about the whole situation around the UK leaving the European Union. (And I acknowledge my debt to Dan Roberts article on The Guardian website, please read the original here)
But first I want to say, you think this whole extraction of our country from the EU will take two years? Remember if negotiations stutter and fail and nothing has been achieved by March 2019 we will leave anyway with nothing, nada, zilch. ‘But, but’, a leaver might stutter, ‘why don’t we just leave?’ And the reason is, there are over 700 different issues that have to be untangled before we leave the EU, that’s why.
Sorry, I’ll tone this down and get to grips with the details I want to examine!
The first point to make is that EU negotiators have a very different perspective from us on what is going to be discussed over these two years. The EU wants to discuss the terms of the departure and that only, while us Brits want to not only talk about the departure, but also negotiate the future relationship, as in the trade relationship between the UK and the EU. Apparently, neither side is moving on this. And Angela Merkel has just emphasised what we Brits want, won’t happen – it’s the terms of departure first and foremost and not the trade agreement that is to be discussed. Well, there’s a fine mess for starters.
Then there is the size of the bill, the invoice, the money we will be asked to pay to leave the EU. There have been various estimates that range from nothing very much to £52 billion. While no one knows exactly what the cost will be some payment will have to made at some point. Funny how that kind of money is always found, but never for health or social care.
And then there is the disgrace of using European citizens resident in the UK as bargaining chips. At the moment they don’t have guaranteed resident rights and won’t until, again apparently, British citizens in the EU get some guarantees about their status. It could be said, ‘fair enough’, but this, this keeping people in a state of uncertainty, some of whom have lived here a very long time quite legally, is thoroughly nasty, and I don’t want any part of this. At least, over the pond, a Hawaiian judge has refused to act on Trump’s travel ban, which is something the US should be proud of, that the judiciary is acting as a brake on executive powers. Here in the UK, so far, we are content to leave innocent people living in a kind of limbo and I feel ashamed of that.
Then give a thought to border controls. Err, people of Kent, many of whom voted to leave, you will be living in a perpetual traffic jam of vehicles going through customs. Did you not think that the lorries driving through the border of the Channel Tunnel might come to a halt when each one has to go through French customs? And Northern Ireland? You want border control there? Should I be astonished at people’s ignorance of the sensitivity there? Hmm?
I must tone this down a notch – apologies.
And then let’s get back to trade. Of course, the leavers were promised, ‘no more free-flow of EU workers coming in’, or more bluntly, ‘no more immigrants coming in and taking our British jobs’. Oh, really? Just watch 24-hours in A&E and count the immigrants! Yes, that doctor and that nurse. You want them to go? More fool you, then. But alongside the UK having more control over its borders and the flood of (legal) EU immigrants, voters were also promised that we would still be part of the single market. In other words, we would still have the toll-free, tariff-free flow of goods and services between the 27 countries of the EU. This was always nonsense, this was always delusional. Why would the EU allow the restriction of its people yet keep the UK happy and let it stay in its huge and prosperous single market.? That. Isn’t. Happening. Instead we will have to negotiate a trade agreement at some point (and not now, see above) that will have to be ratified by every national parliament in the EU – that’s 27 parliaments. And you’re hoping it will be a good trade agreement, one that benefits us? Delusional again. What we will get in the way of a trade agreement, and the difficulty therein in obtaining it, will be an example to any doubting Thomas of an EU nation.
I wonder what the history books will say in 50 years time. I know I’d write – what an act of self-harm, what a stupid thing to do.
There are other points and details I shall write about anon. I’ll just say this I understand some of the reasons why people voted Leave. I do. There are good cogent reasons for seeing the EU as a deeply flawed and undemocratic (but we do have MEPs) institution that, for example, perpetuates neoliberal austerity onto its states (Greece?). But show me any large institution that isn’t flawed? Better inside reforming it (if our leaders had that vision which at the ‘mo they don’t) than outside. Because, it’s going to be awfully cold outside.
And I also understand the poorer workers who voted to Leave. I’ve written about this before. These are people who have been misunderstood and ignored by politicians of every party, in both the UK and the US and, as a result, there have been consequences.
What I cannot get to terms with are the voters of middle-England who want to be more English, who go abroad for their holidays, but don’t want any more foreigners in their country, who don’t want Europeans dictating to them, who seem to want to go back to an idealised and unreal 1950s – oh give me strength! These are people I cannot warm to, who I don’t understand, and can I admit, I don’t like.
Theresa May can talk the talk of working and negotiating for us all – well I am one of the 48% who voted to remain. We are a large proportion of this country. And it’s not going the way I want, or like, at all. What a banal and trite statement, that last sentence. In fact, I rage at the way our country is going. And my anger gets stronger as the months pass. I wonder how I’ll feel at the end of the two years we have to negotiate our exit?
Penny Kocher, 30th March 2017