What’s Next for the UK?
The politics of Brexit inside the UK is becoming more complex by the minute. The country needs a period of reflection to carry out a giant Brexit audit.
June 12, 2017
1. The British election has settled nothing.
2. The assumption that another early election can solve the problem is far from proven. In addition, members such as the Tory MPs who have just arrived in the Commons or narrowly held onto their seats will not want to rush into an early election.
3. Mrs. May is certainly weakened and exposed as the brittle, rather second division politician she always was. But an election contest in the Conservative Party would produce no new clarity.
4. The politics of Brexit inside the UK is becoming more complex by the minute. Even Labour MPs are contradicting each other on all aspects of Brexit, from the Single Market to the Customs Union, Euratom, Freedom of Movement and a role for the European Court of Justice.
It should not be forgotten that Jeremy Corbyn has voted against every EU Treaty that has come before the House of Commons for ratification since he entered Parliament. The top Labour leadership has few contacts with Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Rome and other European capitals.
5. The Labour election manifesto on Brexit called for imposing immigration controls on fellow European citizens — and thus quit the Single Market.
In contrast, the London Labour manifesto stated the priority should be to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union. Accordingly, it called for finding ways of managing migration without the cumbersome bureaucracy of work permits, quotas, seasonal or regional allocations.
In London, Labour made big gains. Where Labour MPs elsewhere in the country stood on the official Labour Party manifesto of leaving the Single Market, some lost their seats.
6. It is clear that there is little point in starting the Article 50 negotiation in this feverish atmosphere. The UK also has to decide how much the general election qualifies the referendum decision, given the fact that only 37% of the total electorate voted for Brexit.
7. The UK needs a period of reflection to carry out a giant Brexit audit, so that every sector of the economy and society can see the costs and consequences of a full Brexit.
Some years ago, the UK Treasury produced thousands of pages of reports and analysis, the so-called five economic tests. This concerned the question of whether or not to join the Euro at the time.
Leaving the EU fully is much bigger in terms of Britain’s future than joining or not joining the Single Currency. Yet, the actual evidence on the pros and cons collected so far is scant.
8. If we are serious about our economic future, then every firm in Britain, every local authority, every government department, every university, every trade union, every civil society organization should now carry out a Brexit audit.
The debate has to move from the feverish ultra-nationalist and propaganda lines fed by extreme anti-EU Tories and hatchet job media organizations toward a rational balance-sheet debate in which all in Britain can participate.
9. Britain currently ranks in 15th place among EU nations in terms of exports per capita. That is not the EU’s fault. Nothing in EU rules prevents the UK from improving its trade performance.
After all, operating under those same rules, other countries have a much stronger trading and exporting performance. The argument that Britain has to amputate itself from the Single Market and the Customs Union to improve its trade profits is just untrue.