Thursday, 30 June 2016

Article 50: playtime is over

Ok kids, let me put this Article 50 nonsense to bed. Article 50 is a notification to the EU that we intend to leave. It triggers a two year period in which to negotiate our new relationship. Before that can happen we need to know from each member state what their position is likely to be on our position. This is called a scoping exercise so that we can create a timeline for events and an agenda whereby anything that was not agreed beforehand is not opened up for discussion unless the rest agree.

Before we do this we first have to know what our own objectives are and whether we wish to keep full membership of the single market and what we are prepared to compromise on and what we are not prepared to compromise on. That will require hearings of select committees, expert panels, public consultations and referrals to professional bodies, unions and trade guilds. I expect academia will want their say as well.

If we have even half a clue inside a year it will be a miracle. Scoping and testing the water with out position will take anywhere up to six months or more, also keeping in mind there are French and German elections which may see a change of position. So we would be quite reckless to even consider any rushed moves.

Some of this can happen concurrently but Article 50 invocation would be most ill advised until the process is complete. Keep in mind not a single strata of policy making is not affected somehow by EU laws. And at best after those two years of official talks all we will come out with is a roadmap for gradual divergence. To say this is complex doesn't even begin to cover it.

Some have asked if I gave concerns that Article 50 may never be triggered. There is always a danger of that. It has yet to dawn on most politicians just how big this is and they may seek a pause when it does dawn on them. The only politicians who has thus far given us a hint of a clue that they know how big this is is David Cameron. That is ideally why we need someone from his camp leading the proceedings. They will have been given the same briefings. Gove will still be clinging on to childish fantasies about knocking up a free trade deal over beer and sandwiches followed by a slash and burn of red tape.

Some of you may remember me being quite put out by some of the untruths told by Professor Michael Dougan just before the vote. I did not like the way he planted little white lies inside the truth. But much of what he did say was entirely accurate. This is no small undertaking and there are no shortcuts. If we really do want to leave then we are going to have to keep the pressure on to make it happen - and there is a good chance that a general election will fall upon us sometime in the process.

That could be dangerous if we see a rejection of the Conservatives, placing the final process in the hands of a dysfunctional Labour party. I wouldn't rule it out. I wouldn't rule anything out. We could be in for some nasty surprises. We also have massive mess to sort out at the WTO. We may have to negotiate a longer period for Article 50 before we even start. As Tony Blair points out in the Telegraph, some may accommodate us but others want rid of us ASAP.

We have a major minefield to navigate and there is nothing to be served by going off half-cocked on a paranoid whim. We have some major decisions to make and we need to settle the argument about freedom of movement. While we gain some extra controls, ending it would not solve our immigration issues and attempting to do so could seriously harm our single market access.

By rights it should not be an issue because the majority of leavers did not vote on the immigration issue - but the BBC, the wider media and our political class say we did and Ukip keep insisting we did too. So the bubble is once again impervious to the truth. So now we have an establishment approaching negotiations on the wrong angle for the wrong reasons based on a faulty interpretation.

Just to make things interesting, the opposition party has gone AWOL, the SNP have gone insane and the Tories are, well, Tories. We have a right royal mess to sort out. Why would we want to make anything more difficult than we need to. At some point we have to put some trust in our MPs even though many are not deserving of it. But we are going to have to watch them like hawks.

And though some of you by now, when faced with the reality might well be regretting your choice. But it is done now. There is no going back on it and the EU is not in a mood to be pissed around. Chances are they want us gone and if we show no sign of leaving they could well force the issue. In times like these politics can override treaties when push comes to shove.

I would argue that we need to get to grips with it and focus on the task at hand. The referendum has exposed just how debased our system has become and now we face a major national conversation about how we fix it without harming our economy and making life even harder for those whom life is already difficult.

What it will require of some of you, especially those of you who are Ukip or Tory right wing inclined, is to tone down your stupid a notch. This confrontational attitude helps nobody. We are going to need massive cooperation from the EU and we do not seek animosity. We need measured, thoughtful and astute responses to difficult questions. Playtime is over. You have had forty years of blissful disengagement from grown up politics. Now we start paying the price.

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