Brexit fundamentalists scored another victory on Wednesday, when the United Kingdom began the process of withdrawing from the European Union without a plan for what comes next.
Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, to inform him that Britain intends is leaving the bloc. This triggers a two-year divorce process under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Britain’s advocates of an EU exit have skillfully lowered expectations, writes Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times.
Last year, they told voters Britain could stay in the single market even if it left the European Union. No matter that Norway and Switzerland had been denied that privilege. No matter that EU officials warned there would be no such deal for Britain either. The likes of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, who are now responsible for Brexit, maintained that the EU would come around. It was on that promise that British voters opted to leave.
Theresa May’s admission last week that the United Kingdom will have to leave the single market at the same time as it leaves the EU means the Scottish nationalists face a difficult choice: relent or demand a second independence referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader and regional first minister, had urged “flexibility” in Britain’s exit negotiations with the EU. 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the bloc last summer against 47 percent of the English. Many feel like Sturgeon that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will.
Brexit’s erosive effect on British democracy continues.
Consider this recent story in The Telegraph, which takes the entire civil service to task for refusing to make Britain’s exit from the European Union a success.
The reality is that Britain’s civil servants are among the world’s most capable and that leaving the EU is going to be painful. There is no way to make Brexit a “success” by any objective measure.
As recently as a few months ago, serious Brexiteers recognized as much. They admitted that leaving the EU would have a negative effect on the economy, at least in the short term. But, they argued, independence from Brussels would make up for it in spirit.
While the British press frantically reports on every move and countermove in the phony war that is their nation’s withdrawal from the EU before it has even started — and while the markets attempt to infer a plan from the every word of Theresa May and her ministers when there clearly is no plan — the outlook really hasn’t changed since Britons voted to leave the European Union in June.
A “flexible” Brexit, under which those parts of the United Kingdom that voted in June’s referendum to stay in the European Union would remain members of the single market, may be the answer to many political headaches, but it’s almost impossible to pull off.
Such a scheme might work for Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, which share land borders with the EU but not with Great Britain.
But it’s difficult to imagine how this could work for Scotland. Would continental goods that were exported tariff-free to Scotland be taxed at the English border? What about Europeans visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow without a visa? Would they need to go through customs if they wanted to see other parts of the United Kingdom? Read more ““Flexible” Brexit Is Not a Realistic Solution for Scotland”
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, Spain has ramped its rhetoric surrounding the territory of Gibraltar, a sliver of land that has been in British hands for centuries but to which Spain continues to claim sovereignty.
Earlier this month, the acting foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, threatened to “put up the flag” on the Rock, hinting at a Spanish takeover.