Out of Brexit a disunited kingdom

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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The United Kingdom of Great Britain, one of the dominant regions in the history of the world, is facing the prospect of breaking into smaller countries, something from which no one would benefit.

It is has become clear to the British public that:

(1) The process of exiting the European Union (EU) is a lot more difficult than was glibly claimed by those advocating leaving the EU. Swayed more by slogans like “Take Back Control” rather than substance, the referendum produced an uncomfortably small majority in favour of leaving. The naiveté of an easy withdrawal soon became evident.

(2) The financial bonanza by saving on financial contributions to the EU budget proved to be a chimera. It turns out that the UK will have budget contributions for many years to come and will have to replace the loss of EU support to their farmers. Even if Britain leaves in 2019, there are projects it agreed to contribute to, some of which will not be completed until 2030. The 'divorce bill' could be up to 70 billion pounds Sterling.

(3) The negotiations to leave the EU could never realistically have been completed in two years, given the enormous complexity of the issues. The several changes in the leadership of the UK negotiations have not helped. Sheer gritty determination for which the British are justly famous does not constitute a negotiation strategy.

(4) The promised economic benefits were never realistic and are a mirage which recedes as it is approached in time. Recently, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund took the almost unprecedented step of publicly announcing that all economic scenarios would make the UK economy worse off.

Even before the eventuality of post-EU status, the uncertainty has already taken a toll on the economy, and threatened the valuable and venerable role of London as a global financial centre.

Many in the Conservative Party are desperately hoping that a victory there will unite the split in the party. Good sense would dictate the holding of a second referendum, as has been suggested by Mr Tony Blair and others.

Yesterday there were public demonstrations in London calling for another referendum. Mrs Theresa May's opposition to this is based on the hope that she can salvage her political career by getting an agreement with the EU. This seems like personal ambition over pragmatism.

The underlying problem is that there was never a consensus on Brexit. No blueprint enjoys consensus within the Conservative parliamentary group or the wider Conservative Party membership. There are very different perspectives in Scotland and Ireland from those in Whitehall. London, Scotland and Ireland voted to stay and the rest of England voted to leave.

The main problem is the attainment of multiple goals in the negotiations which are not compatible from the EU perspective. Indeed, what the menu of goals amounts to is a “bespoke” deal, which means desiring to have your cake and eat it.

We hope that a solution can be found to keep the United Kingdom of Great Britain together and to strengthen the invaluable contribution that the UK has continued to make to the global family.

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