Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Playing the Game


When you buy a board game, the first thing you do is read the rules. The rules tell you the order in which you do things such as 'roll the dice, pick up a card from the deck, move your playing piece the number of spaces on the board, then carry out the instructions on the card'.

The same thing applies to the European Union. In order for a state to leave the European Union, things must be done in a certain order. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty reads as follows:
Article 50 
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 If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
'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.' (My Emphasis).

As Dr Richard North on EUReferendum (www.eureferendum.com) tirelessly points out, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty deals ONLY with the withdrawal agreement. Thus in the 'rules of the game' analogy:

1. The United Kingdom gives notice of its intention to withdraw from the European Union
2. The United Kingdom then negotiates with the European Council representing the EU27 the arrangements for its withdrawal
3. Once the United Kingdom has withdrawn from the European Union it can then negotiate a new deal which is NOT part of the withdrawal deal.
4. As a third country i.e. not part of the EU, it then can negotiate deals with other non EU countries as well as with the EU27 (as one entity).

It seems that the European Union is willing to let the United Kingdom have some kind of implementation period lasting until 31st December 2020 (i.e. 21 months from 'Brexit day') on very specific conditions:
3. As regards transition, the European Council notes the proposal put forward by the United Kingdom for a transition period of around two years, and agrees to negotiate a transition period covering the whole of the EU acquis, while the United Kingdom, as a third country, will no longer participate in or nominate or elect members of the EU institutions, nor participate in the decision-making of the Union bodies, offices and agencies. 
4. Such transitional arrangements, which will be part of the Withdrawal Agreement, must be in the interest of the Union, clearly defined and precisely limited in time. In order to ensure a level playing field based on the same rules applying throughout the Single Market, changes to the acquis adopted by EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies will have to apply both in the United Kingdom and the EU. All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will also apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. As the United Kingdom will continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms) during the transition, it will have to continue to comply with EU trade policy, to apply EU customs tariff and collect EU customs duties, and to ensure all EU checks are being performed on the border vis-à-vis other third countries. (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/32236/15-euco-art50-guidelines-en.pdf )
This blogger thinks that these conditions are completely unacceptable. In March 2019 the United Kingdom will not have any members of the European Parliament, nor any commissioner, nor any person on any European Body (committees, talking shops, negotiation platforms etc) and thus the transition arrangements will be
"In the interests of the Union"
They will NOT be in the interests of the United Kingdom;  they will be in the interests of the (European) Union. In addition:
"All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will also apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union."
In other words, the rules of the game on the card we have just picked up from the pile say that we have to do as we are told with no say, no influence and no input and have to accept whatever it is that we are told to do without argument. The European Union has told the UK that the period will terminate at the end of 2020 which coincides with the current Multi-Annual Financial Framework period (http://ec.europa.eu/budget/mff/index_en.cfm)

If this is not accepting orders via email and fax with no say, I don't know what is. This is what, falsely, "Grossly Incompetent"  David Cameron said Norway did as an EFTA state. It doesn't. Norway has a say at the drafting stage and as the legislation develops. The United Kingdom will literally have no say. It will become a vassal state - the worst of all worlds (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86705)

I am not a treaty expert nor an expert in Free Trade Agreements but the facts seem very simple. The United Kingdom will not have any kind of new trade agreement let alone a "deep and special relationship" of the kind that Mrs May wants (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-talks-downing-street-theresa-may-jean-claude-juncker-michel-barnier-eu-a7704561.html) when it leaves the European Union because the rules don't allow for that.

When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union it does so without a deal and THEN as a third country negotiations on a new deal can start. 

Of course Theresa May could open negotiations to join EFTA today and negotiate to stay in the European Economic Area. As far as I am aware the United Kingdom can start to negotiate new arrangements whilst it is a member of the European Union - it just can't CONCLUDE them whilst it is a member of the European Union. 

We could negotiate that our accession to EFTA would be 2 minutes after we leave the European Union on Brexit day (thereby joining EFTA after leaving the EU and becoming a third country) and this would ameliorate many of the issues not least the issue of the Irish Border. On Brexit day we would leave the influence of the European Court of Justice and come under the influence of the EFTA court instead (http://www.eftacourt.int)

It seems to me that the United Kingdom urgently needs to learn to play the game as cleverly as the European Union is doing. The United Kingdom needs to read the rules of the game in order to play it properly.

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