March 1, 2017
Genval, 28th February 2017 – I am convinced that nobody really wants Brexit because it hurts basically everybody both in the UK and in the EU. After hearing evidence, facts and data in the European Parliament, no one said any positive note on it. Nobody. Common folks, the King has nothing on!
Brexit debate gains full attention
— Zoltán MassayKosubek (@EU_ZMK) 2017. február 28.
I have been living in Brussels for more than 5 years, and had the opportunity of both organising and attending hearings inside the European Parliament, but never witnessed such a close attention to an event as it was the case at today’s hearing about Brexit and Trade in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee. The house was full, an extra room was opened for paticipants to follow the hearing which was webstreamed. I had the chance for the first and most likely last time in my professional career to follow an event from an interpreter cabine, having an almost perfect overview on the room. I have witnessed that despite the high number of attendees, concentration and tense silence was felt: the speakers had full attention of the room.
Putting Brexit to the Test
Excellent academic speakers gave a complete and comprehensive overview about the many aspects of Brexit, including
– the legal framework about article 50
– the power and potential role of the European Parliament in the Brexit process
– the economic impacts of Brexit as well as its sectoral impacts
– trade in services
– Brexit and public procurement
– the legal consequences on the internal market and
– the consequences of Brexit in the area of consumer protection.
Something Positive about Brexit, please?
I was carefully listening the verdict of academia and heard the many different aspects. However, I can hardly remember of any positive elements highlighted by the speakers – all of them being respected professors from diverse Universities. That made me really think: why is then Brexit happening? Why could not we have had that factual, evidence based debate prior to the Brexit referendum?
The misconception of Brexit
There is no doubt that the original idea behind Brexit is direct democracy. There was a fair and open referendum which decided in one way. Fair enough. However, my fundamental problem with this approach is that it became bloody obvious that the referndum was based on misconceptions and a very complex issue was simplified to a yes/no question. Since then, everybody realised the real consequences of Brexit and it became crystal clear that pushing for Brexit is irresponsive and at least a very bad idea. I believe the Brexit agenda follows the misconception that this is what British people voted for. Well, British people had only a protest vote and that was all of it. They do not deserve to be punished for many generations because of a major but single political mistake.
What’s next, then?
I think, political courage would be needed to tell to the people ‘Look, we made a huge mistake. Sorry. Let’s correct it. You have now all the facts. Let’s hold another referendum to see if this is what you really want.’ I am afraid a second referendum after activating article 50 and after having a deal negotiated would cause irreparable damage and therefore would be too late.
Another option would be for a political party to say: ‘Look. We realised that making Brexit is insane. If you elect us, we would reverse Brexit.’ And a potential electoral victory for me would be equivalent to a seond Brexit referendum
Background of Brexit
The UK Government published the White Paper ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union’. This document outlines the Prime Minister’s vision about ‘an independent, truly Global UK and an ambitious, future relationship with the EU. This defines the principles of a so-called ‘hard Brexit’: leaving the common market and the custom union but hoping for an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU and with many other countries globally.
The British government is about to ‘activate’ article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) in March and make Brexit a painful reality to everyone…
Article 50 – Treaty on European Union (TEU)
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.