February 10, 2017
We have compared the mental state of those in the UK who supported the Remain to a process of mourning. After the period of denial and anger, we are entering the stages of bargaining and depression. This is good because it moves us forward and because it reduces the still considerable risk of an accident down the road, the worst of which would be the UK crashing out of the EU without a treaty. Acceptance is the final stage. We are not there yet.
Andrew Duff notes that Brexit is now effectively a done deal. The House of Commons has a theoretically negative vote, but it cannot get the UK back into membership after the trigger of Article 50. Duff goes through the legal and political processes a reversal decision would involve. The right to an Art 50 reversal is in principle broadly agreed, but it is far from clear whether the European Council and the European Parliament would accept it. There may be limited circumstances where the EU would accept an extension of the two-year deadline by unanimity, but the EU will never allow a recalcitrant UK to procrastinate, to delay for the sake of a delay. The points of ambiguity that have yet to be addressed are the timing and sequencing of the Art 50 negotiations; the nature of the transitional agreement; the eventual customs arrangement; and the question of judicial oversight of the future trade relationships.
On the latter point, we noted an interesting suggestion by Alan Dashwood. He proposes that the Efta court should be given this role despite the fact that the UK will not become a member of the EEA. The Efta court would not be another ECJ, but a mere dispute-settlement institution for trade-related conflicts. He argues that the focus would be economic, not political, and the Efta court stands beyond suspicions of being driven by political ideology.
On the point of whether a return to the EU is still theoretically possible, George Parker has a story that debunks the idea. He quotes a suggestion that an early vote by the House of Commons to reject the draft agreement could lead to massive lobbying pressure on the government by the City and by business to try to reopen negotiations. This idea is dismissed by Nick Clegg, the LibDem leader, who takes the view that the UK parliament
"has been cowed and intimidated by the referendum result, the ferocity of the Eurosceptic press and the unforgiving stance of Theresa May...You have seen how cowed MPs have been this week...The build up to any parliamentary vote would be preceded by a drumbeat about Johnny Foreigner wanting our money, dressed up in the language of the Blitz spirit.”
The Labour party will be largely compliant in this process. Heather Stewart writes that rumours of Jeremy Corbyn's political death are exaggerated, and that the time for Clive Lewis, a pro-Remain left-winger, has not yet come. Even if Brexit turns out to be an unmitigated disaster, it is far from clear whether the public would turn to the pro-Remain politicians, rather than finding someone else to blame - the EU, naturally. Corbyn himself acted politically sensibly, she says. He had no choice but to accept the referendum result, and thus the Article 50 vote, and no choice in avoiding a conflict with the Remain faction in his party.