5 reasons why the expectations for Brexit were deluded, pt. 2

, by Patrick Geneit, Translated by Nora Teuma

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

5 reasons why the expectations for Brexit were deluded, pt. 2
Photo: CC0

Brexit simply remains a mess. Treffpunkt Europa contributor Patrick Geneit had a closer look at theses brought up by Brexit defenders and made a list of his own.

You can find Patrick Geneit’s first three theses in the first part of the article.

The current deal is the best Theresa May and the UK can strike

The EU is clear: There will be no cherry-picking. The problem with Northern Ireland only worsened after the general elections May had called for herself. She wanted to strengthen her position domestically and ended up being dependent on the unionist DUP, a party that will not tolerate any exceptions or special status for Northern Ireland. Hence there will neither be an exception for single market access nor a better deal.

Britain speculated the EU would show flexibility regarding the four fundamental freedoms, i.e. the free movement of people, goods, capital and services. I believe the EU might as well dissolve entirely if exceptions and loopholes were installed in its basic freedoms. Switzerland and Norway decided to be part of the single market and thus subject to EU laws and jurisdiction despite not being EU members. It would be understandable if such countries renegotiated their relationship with the EU if Britain were to receive preferential treatment. But as we have seen, the EU does not need to do so and has prevailed throughout negotiations.

For the UK, the question remains whether this “bad deal” with a backstop, “temporarily” remaining in the customs union but with limited influence, is that attractive. I can understand that the deal is in fact frustrating, as the EU practically has a say in whether Britain can leave the customs union or not. On the other side, a hard Brexit, one without any sort of agreement, is an economic catastrophe no one wants to be responsible for. Maybe some voters understand only now what the EU really is. And that the EU does bring quite some advantages for the United Kingdom that might now be lost.

The problem in these negotiations does not lie with Brussels, but London

The UK does not know what it wants: The people and the parliament are deeply divided over this matter. The referendum will unfortunately enter history as an example of a popular vote on a complex question with a variety of implications that simply could not be summarised in a few words. It did not help that the Remain camp was initially organised much worse than the Leave camp, which spread many lies about the relation between the UK and the EU.

Sadly, Theresa May is not even a die-hard Brexiteer. But she is an iron prime minister who laudably executes her mandate to achieve the best Brexit possible for the British people. For that, she has earned herself earnest respect.

The former Leave opinion-leaders around Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are struggling in this regard. Politicians like them would have had a strong case for claiming the position as prime minister. But they dodged their responsibility. Nigel Farage resigned as UKIP chairman, claiming his political goal being achieved – which from today’s perspective appears very short-sighted, as the exit was by no means secured after the vote. And also Boris Johnson seems to have toned down on his ambitions.

But what unites them is criticism of May’s negotiation skills: They complain about the “bad deal”, which I can understand. Yet, where are their own suggestions, their own plans how a better deal can be made, one that does justice to their promises and expectations? This shows, as so often throughout these last years, the typical image of the Leave camp in Britain: Deluded expectations, false hopes and a lack of suggestions for solutions. Both politicians should have pulled through with Brexit themselves. A better deal simply would not have been possible.

And now?

In conclusion, it only remains to be said that Brexit has been decided – theoretically at least. It still has to be seen whether May’s “bad” deal will pass at the House of Commons. The UK should then clearly and duly decide – to take the deal or, if necessary, prepare for a hard Brexit.

A lot has been learned about popular referenda, as well. Without being able to foresee all possible consequences, such a vote is clearly irrational. The issue with the Northern Ireland question could have been predicted much earlier. Britain’s image in Europe and the world suffers while the country is shooting itself in the foot.

As final legislative advice, I want to say that, when article 50 is invoked in the future, the respective member state’s say and rights should be repealed immediately – at least until the final status has been clarified. Just like the ECJ announced, Great Britain could unilaterally withdraw its petition to leave and return to the status quo, which due to the current circumstances could actually become a possibility. My proposed rule should ensure that every state willing to leave must be absolutely sure about its intention. A prolongation of exit negotiations might then not be a problem for the EU under such circumstances.

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