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Brexit: let’s get on with it. Delay benefits no-one

June 25, 2016

We are not where I wanted us to be. Leaving the European Union is a dangerous, retrograde step but it is the path the British people have chosen. As a democrat I accept that.


I didn’t want the referendum as I believe the complex modern world doesn’t lend itself to simplistic acts of direct democracy. Boris Johnson likes to talk about the UK having the “Mother of Parliaments” but cheerfully rejected the representative democracy that stands for when it suited him. The folly of reducing the huge complexity of issues around the best way to foster international co-operation to a simplistic question about our relationship with one multi-national institution has left our country deeply scarred and divided.

But we have voted in large numbers and have made a decision. We must now see it through in a way that does the least damage. That means getting on with it.

Prolonging the agony will benefit no-one. If we have to set out on this new course we need to know exactly what it looks like as quickly as possible otherwise the uncertainty will become economically and politically crippling both for us and for the rest of Europe. We need to recognise that we need a clean, fair and equitable break because to damage Europe will be to damage our own future prospects. Those welcoming Brexit cannot wax lyrical about how we can and will trade with Europe and then set out to willfully or otherwise damage it.

What do we need to do?

Second referendum: no thanks

Euro ballot boxes

The decision has been made: let’s respect it

First, stop this nonsense about a second referendum. I poured scorn on Nigel Farage during the campaign when he flagged up the possibility of a second referendum if there was a narrow Remain vote.  I am not going to be a hypocrite just because my side lost. A debate about a second referendum would be divisive and potentially extend the process indefinitely. What happens if you have this second referendum and the vote is even closer either way? Do you have a third?

Press the button on Article 50

Second, get on and activate Article 50. Sitting on our hands until the autumn because David Cameron has walked away from taking responsibility for the mess he has landed us in creates a huge political vacuum and will cause untold economic damage. Uncertainty cripples the financial markets and increases volatility, an environment in which a tiny few profit while most of us suffer.

We need to know what the separation will look like and quickly. We need to have as much influence over that as possible. By sitting back and waiting for the Tory Party to get its ducks in a row we are likely to find that our soon-to-be former European partners will have made all the decisions for us. That isn’t what I call taking control of our destiny.

That will only be the first step towards the new reality because Brexit isn’t a decision, it is a process and a pretty lengthy one at that. Until we know what the exit deal is we can’t start to build all the other relationships we will need to prosper in the future. On trade alone there are 53 agreements with non-EU countries that we will no longer be party to and which will have to be negotiated afresh.

I am sure the exit will be messy and at times acrimonious. It is hard to see how it will be otherwise. We need to get that part over and done with as quickly as possible so we can start to look to the future.

From → Politics

One Comment
  1. Nick Starling permalink

    David – the process of disengagement will be enormous. For example the UK will have to negotiate 27 separate air services agreements with its former EU partners. Some might be easy – the liberal traders like the Dutch and the Scandinavians. But others might see it as a chance to protect their own carriers. The same will be true of things like reciprocal arrangements for eg health. The alternative would be to move very quickly to an EEA type arrangement – although that will of course allow the free movement of people, with no control by the UK over the making of laws.

    Boris, Gove et al gave no indication of what sort of process they would engage on, or even a clear idea of what a UK out of the EU would actually look like. At least there was a White Paper for the Scottish referendum, even though many of the assumptions it made were questionable.

    If it is clear that the decision is going to be a financial disaster for the UK, could Parliament step in? Referendums are only advisory after all.



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