With so many of the ruling classes wanting the UK to stay a member of the European Union it is no surprise that the leaving process will face plenty of obstacles and delays.
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it. A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
However only a dwindling number of die-hard EU fanatics believe that leaving can be delayed forever. So one day it will actually happen. But how best to handle the actual separation is not clear to me or – I suspect – many other Grandads. But that does not prevent us making a few guesses.
Step 1 should probably be for the PM to send a letter to one or more of the EU presidents saying we are leaving – as per article 50 of the EU treaty. (see right) Various factions are seeking to delay this first step in both the Commons and the Lords.
Step 2 should be to suspend all payments to the EU – pending the conclusion of the leaving negotiations. This would, no doubt, trigger an unfavourable reaction from the EU. But once committed to leaving we need to hang onto all our funds if only to cover ourselves against the EU stopping or restricting the UK’s benefits and rebates. The alternative of making payments and then asking for them back later seems foolish in the extreme.
Step 3 should be to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. This step is needed to restore the priority of British laws and remove the superiority of the EU over our affairs. Being a matter that will, most likely, require a parliamentary bill it may well be blocked or delayed by the remaining, anti-independence EUrologists. And that is why this step must come after steps 1 and 2. Any delays in implementing step 3 would, therefore, not delay the actual leaving date.
Once these three steps are cleared then there are dozens – or more likely hundreds / thousands – of laws, rules and regulations that need to be created, replaced, redrafted or scrapped in the UK. A process that could well become long drawn out and tedious. But employing MPs on this task may serve to remind them not to keep adding so many new laws to the statute book in the future.
However the EU treaties do not terminate until terms are agreed in Brussels. This process is allowed to take a maximum of two years from the date of step 1. For any extension beyond two years there needs to be a unanimous agreement by the European Council.
In February 2016 the UK civil service produced a paper outlining The process for withdrawing from the European Union. This painted a very gloomy picture; mainly highlighting their perceived problems in leaving the EU –
– It could take up to a decade or more to negotiate firstly our exit from the EU, secondly our future arrangements with the EU, and thirdly our trade deals with countries outside of the EU, on any terms that would be acceptable to the UK.
– This long period of uncertainty could have an impact on financial markets, investment and the value of the pound, and as a consequence on the wider economy and jobs.
– Issues such as the rights of the approximately two million British citizens living elsewhere in the EU, access to markets for vital industries, and the status of Irish and Gibraltan borders would all need to be addressed.
This report may be excessively negative but it does make some valid points. Now any Grandads with a strong commercial background would probably conclude that the best strategy would be to go for the simplest terms agreed as quickly as possible. In fact terms that could be as simple as a polite goodbye with no concessions or commitments. This would put the UK in the same situation as non-European countries and non-EU members like Turkey. So trips to the rest of Europe could involve visas (and therefore for EU citizens coming to the UK) – providing the EU is really prepared to commit to the cost of extra policing at its borders that this visa checking would incur.
Clearly a quick and clean separation would sweep away all the uncertainties but it would also upset those that want to hang on to EU membership for as long as possible. Notable amongst these would be the SNP. However acting decisively at the first opportunity would shorten the period of unrest; even if it brought to a head the issue of a second referendum on Scotland leaving the UK. Surely a price worth paying when considering the alternative of years of political wrangling.
So when will step 1 happen? If I knew that I would be busy placing bets before saying anything publicly. But sometime while parliament is in recess is often good – so how about Christmas / New Year? That is next Christmas .. not Christmas 2017! However it could be something that none of us live long enough to see …