Friday 24 June 2016

If the electorate hands you lemons...

So, Brits actually voted for Brexit.

Britain, to Europe

My (and most of my friends') reaction...

They voted Lemons. Let's make Lemonade.

I don't believe in asking for a second referendum (though if you do, there's a very popular petition for that). But I do believe that, after the initial shock has worn off, there's no reason to lose hope.

Here's why hope is warranted:

I still believe that the Brexit scenario the UK will end up with is to continue its EEA / EFTA membership (the Norway model). I outlined why in my very long first Brexit blog post, but here's a refresher of what it would entail:
  • Continued access to the single market.
  • Continued free movement of people (i.e. no changes to immigration, still the same rights for Brits to live, work and study in European countries)
  • Continued acceptance of most EU regulations (though without input into shaping them)
  • Financial contributions to the EU under the Norway grants scheme - probably a little less than the UK currently contributes to the EU. This would go to recipient EU countries in need of development (but not to recipient UK regions in need of development), so Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal etc. would not be out of pocket by the UK's departure.
  • No Common Fisheries Policy (i.e. no fishing quotas)
  • No Common Agricultural Policy (UK farmers on anything but industrial scale farms are going to be screwed)
  • No votes in European Commission, Council, Parliament etc.

At this point, this scenario is the best that Britain can hope for. However, I no longer believe that it is certain to be the outcome, just that it is still likelier than any other alternative. Several politicians (in the UK and in the EU) have openly declared intentions that the UK should leave the single market. 

Here's why I think the Norway model is more likely than leaving the single market:
  • Every other instance of countries having referenda about membership in European markets, where the referenda came out negative, has resulted in arrangements that are as close as possible to EU membership while still honouring the democratic decision. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland: the two former countries are in the EEA, the latter has replicated almost all of EEA through a batch of "bilateral" agreements that are all linked together. Basically, political leaders faced with a population that is eurosceptic have almost always ended up putting their countries as close to the EU as they could. 
  • Politicians want to be (re-)elected. Leaving the EEA would throw the UK into ten years or more of economic chaos, with a lengthy recession at the start. Any government proactively causing not just a brief stock market crash, but actual long-term recession, would severely scupper its chances of getting re-elected.
  • Aside from the SNP, politicians want to preserve "the Union". If the UK remains an EEA member, then most benefits of being in the EU still apply. For the fishing industry, there'd be fewer restrictions. Any second Scottish referendum would therefore have to present "EU-accession" (which includes eventually adopting the Euro and continuing to abide by Common Fisheries Policy) as the "Independence" option, while the "staying together" option would stick with the pound and stay out of fishing quotas. Basically, if they want Scotland to stay, they have to keep Britain in the EEA.
  • The referendum wasn't won by the "Leave" extremists. It was won by confused, mostly undecided voters who want "change" and were shown a long list of (semi-fictional) grievances and who were promised the world. Now they see the first shockwaves of their decision. They also see how quickly the promises are being abandoned. Staying in the EEA is the UK's best chance of preserving its economy (and JOBS), and of not completely alienating the bulk of the electorate. 
  • It'd be the quickest solution and actually achievable within 2 years. (The main sticking point would probably be just how much the UK would have to put into the Norway Grants). 
Will Boris turn the UK into The Black Knight?

Likely, however, is not the same as assured. If, post-Cameron, the more far-right elements take over government, the UK could continue shooting itself in various limbs (the foot having already been shot yesterday) until none are left.

So, my request for friends and readers who opposed Brexit is this:

Please start writing to politicians NOW.  Please keep writing to them (and feel free to write to more than one, and perhaps even to write to MPs where your families live). Please tell politicians what your priorities are for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. 

If you don't want to spend a long time writing your own letter, I've prepared two for you to copy, paste into the contact form online, and adapt. Delete stuff you disagree with, add stuff of your own.

Tell them what you value.

  • As a Brit, do you value the right to travel, live, work and study in other EU countries? Do you want children / future generations to have that right?
  • Do you value the contribution of immigrants to UK society?
  • Do you value access to the single market (and how appealing this is to major manufacturers and employers)?
  • Do you value solidarity with nations hit hard by the recession and decades of underdevelopment (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania etc)? Do you think they should suffer financial losses if the UK leaves?

  • As (non-UK) European, do you value Britain's inclusion in Europe?
  • Do you value being able to travel, live, work and study in the UK?
  • Do you value a quick resolution and return to economic stability?
  • Do you value solidarity with the 48% of the British electorate who want to be part of the EU?

Please, write to your MP. Write to your AM. Write to your MEP. Write to your Abgeordnete/r, your sénateur, your deputati, ...

We can stop the UK from slipping further towards insanity, and we can stop the EU from crumbling. We just need to make sure that common sense prevails among the people who implement Brexit.

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