The Results of the European Council Meeting on Brexit

Here’s The Guardian’s report on the European Council (ECoun) meeting Tuesday, 28 June 2016:

There is a meeting of almost the same group Wednesday, but it can’t be an ECoun meeting because the UK is explicitly not invited. Let me call it the E27.

(It’s going to be tricky formulating a legally-valid bargaining position, because whatever is formulated will not have been by the ECoun, but presumably must be validated at some point by the Ecoun. I wonder how that will happen? Can it be done without offering the possibility of a challenge to the process through the ECJ?)

The Guardian article says what Cameron says he told the others.

[Cameron] said he had explained to his counterparts how prominently the issue of freedom of movement had played during the referendum campaign. “I think people recognised the strength of the economic case for staying; but there was a very strong concern about freedom of movement”.

He may be right that immigration is the big deal, as far as anyone can tell. It’s been the big deal for a long time and was the sticking point in the February ECoun talks about UK exceptions. But it is obviously wrong to say that “people recognised the strength of the economic case for staying“. Most of us would say that people were blatantly lied to by the Leave campaign on economic matters (for example, that £350m per week notice on the side of the red bus) and many seem to have bought those lies.

Here is another example of a questionable assertion, this time from from Angela Merkel:

“We did not discuss the possibility that the UK will not invoke article 50, and I consider this an impossibility.”

Article 50 says notification of withdrawal must be consistent with constitutional requirements. People who arguably know as much as anyone knows have said that Parliament must be asked . Since most MPs understand the (real) economic arguments, as well as that the key demographic (younger people) voted overwhelmingly to stay, it cannot be impossible that Parliament would decide against invoking Article 50.

Suppose Article 50 is invoked by a future PM without consulting parliament, and there is a legal challenge. The outcome of that challenge will determine whether the PM acted legally or illegally, and clearly neither Frau Merkel nor her advisors could know the result of that challenge in advance. If it is determined that the PM acted illegally, then the UK will not have invoked Article 50, even though the ECoun might have been working under the assumption heshe had.

The current public bargaining position of the E27 seems to be that the UK can’t join EEA or EFTA without allowing free movement as in the Treaties of Rome and Maasstricht. If that is really the position that is going to be insisted upon, then there seems little point to discussion and if that is so then it is open to the UK to withhold invoking Article 50 and there will be a standoff. And if it can be fudged somehow so that the UK gets some appropriate level of immigration control (whatever that is) “consistent with” Rome and Maasstricht, then the question would arise why that couldn’t have happened back in February in the ECoun discussions and this whole mess avoided.

I also resent politicians speaking as if the result of the referendum shows what “the British people” chose. It doesn’t, for the following obvious reason.

I could not vote  because I haven’t been resident in the UK for over 15 years. I don’t know how many of the 1.2 million – or 2 million, take your pick – of us outside the country in the rest of the EU were unable to vote, but it is a fair presumption that most of us would vote to Remain. The difference between Remain and Leave was 1,269,501 That is, we could have forced the tie if we’d been able to vote.

I’m just as British as anyone in Walsall (and I bet more than some). Why couldn’t I vote? How can a referendum determining the future of Britain which excludes the opinion of any British citizens be regarded as legitimate?

I regard it as a disaster that Britain might exit the EU, for all parties involved. It is affecting me substantially, will continue to do so, and I am furious that I could not vote.

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