Word on the street: Will it be 50UK/50EU or 60EU/40UK?


- Credit: Archant

While the EU Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to spawn a two speed UK after the end of the transition period, a deeper flaw is its failure to define how many EU and UK representatives will sit on the “joint consultative committee” – the group who implement the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

Will it be 50UK/50EU or 60EU/40UK?

The omission from the agreement suggests that the public may not like the answer. In any event, we may never know the answer if the WA is voted down.

So, with no WA, what is Plan B? The constitutional, defence and economic drivers of our country and economy desperately do not want a no deal scenario – a view confirmed by parliament last week and by different groups of ex-defence personnel, farmers and business leaders – and neither does the EU. But the EU won’t change its negotiating position. With no WA and no deal, there are only two options left – extend the Brexit date or revoke the Article 50 notice. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) confirmed that revoking Article 50 is a unilateral sovereign right of each EU member.

Extending Article 50 needs the consent of all 27 EU countries. Revocation does not, needing only a government letter to the EU Commission (in the same way as the notice was triggered) or, if the government won’t do it, a majority vote by MPs on a revocation motion putting pressure on the government to do it.

With just over 2.5 months to go, extending Article 50 is increasingly unlikely. Revocation seems the only option. While it will stop Brexit for the moment, it will give us time to heal the divisions in our discourse and in our country. It will give us time to work out what we want to do, including whether or not to hold a second referendum and it will give us time to think the unthinkable, including whether to continue to leave or to remain and work for change on the inside – most notably changing the EU’s position on free movement and working to cut its expenditure and the amount the UK sends. More importantly, it will give us some bandwidth to tackle Neglexit – ie, the proliferation of social injustice and the neglect of our public services and other urgent issues.

Some critics of Brexit blocking talk up a rise in extremist groups and feelings of being cheated. Revocation is not Brexit blocking. We may yet leave. But to those who perceive revocation as such, I say that I believe that ultimately the majority of our nationals are fair minded and rational. Many leave voters have changed their minds and are begging to have their votes checked.

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And it is right that we look again at whether we want to leave the EU. Businesses are leaving in droves, particularly from the financial services sector, 47 of whose companies pay 10.9 per cent of total tax receipts (PWC, Dec 17). Almost half of adult Britons (43.8pc - 23m people) pay no tax and with the lay offs and planned lay offs we hear about day after day, eg, Jaguar, this is set to increase (IFS, 2016). The richest 1pc (300,000 people) pay more than a quarter of all tax (27.5pc) and many of them are mobile so can decide where they want to be. If we continue to Brexit, our public services will suffer further as our tax take suffers.

We need a national conversation on the options, including remaining in the EU and must not shy away from difficult outcomes. Revocation of the Article 50 notice will give us time to do just that.