Blog: On the road to a traumatic Brexit?

October 7, 2016

TransCrisis blog post by Martin Lodge and Nick Sitter

Events at the Conservative conference are supposed to have offered some insight into the slogan ‘Brexit means Brexit’. We now know that Art 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017, that ‘national sovereignty’ is to be established over matters of immigration, and that there is supposed to be no role for the European Court of Justice in the workings of the United Kingdom.

We also heard that a Great Repeal Act will conclude the negotiations of Brexit – all incorporated EU legislation will become domestic legislation, so that domestic policy-makers can decide afresh as to what is ‘optimal’ for the UK.

These announcements were met by jubilant newspaper headlines on the one hand, and by a renewed slump of the British Pound in the currency markets on the other. For some, it was an announcement that signalled a ‘hard Brexit’, in that membership of a common economic area (let alone the Single Market) was traded in for the promise of strong migration controls. For others, it was an opening gambit for a pragmatic negotiation between the UK and the EU.

Whatever the headline announcements, there is still no certainty as to what ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually might mean. Even worse, the announcements coming out of Birmingham’s conference venue hide much more important questions about how to manage access to the European Single Market. This vacuousness about how to ensure that UK rules are equivalent to EU rules so as to ensure market access is manifest in the absence of any consideration of three essential aspects that will shape the future relationship between a Brexit-UK and the remaining EU. These three aspects are decision-making, monitoring and adjudication. While the UK government seems to suggest that it will get its own bespoke deal from the EU, these three key aspects will shape the future relationship regardless of eventual settlement. This holds regardless of whether the UK ends up with a Norwegian-type multilateral deal or Swiss-style bilateral arrangement (which May says she is not interested in), or secures the kind of Court- and migration-free market access that May dreams of (which most EU leaders say is not on offer), or the UK is out on its own.

Read the whole post on the TransCrisis blog.