News 24th June 2016: Brexit wins!

London wanted it, the Labour party wanted it, even David Beckham wanted it, nonetheless, the British have voted to leave the European union. Massive repercussions were threatened in the run up to this historic vote if voters tempted by the ideas of the out campaign dared to exercise a truly free vote by choosing to leave the fledgling superstate, and in that people were I’d imagine rather irked by media and government, with which they have spoken resoundingly against the status quo. Are fish raining from the sky, world war three imminent, cats and dogs living together, as was promised by the in voters if the British dared leave, not exactly, not yet anyway. Rather the internet is simply abuzz with irate in voters claiming the entire issue “shouldn’t have gone to public vote”! For my friends writing that, welcome to a functioning democracy. Political scientist Kenneth Minogue, by a June 2003 article, wrote in insightful a fashion on the sort of voter who would want an unelected conglomerate of “michelin star quangocrats” writing their laws from afar:

We may define Olympianism as a vision of human betterment to be achieved on a global scale by forging the peoples of the world into a single community based on the universal enjoyment of appropriate human rights. Olympianism is the cast of mind dedicated to this end, which is believed to correspond to the triumph of reason and community over superstition and hatred. It is a politico-moral package in which the modern distinction between morals and politics disappears into the aspiration for a shared mode of life in which the communal transcends individual life. To be a moral agent is in these terms to affirm a faith in a multicultural humanity whose social and economic conditions will be free from the causes of current misery.

They continued, rather prophetically:

The foundational elitism of the Olympian lies in self-ascribed rationality, generally picked up on an academic campus. Egalitarianism involves a formal adherence to democracy as a rejection of all forms of traditional authority, but with no commitment to taking any serious notice of what the people actually think.

In light of the above, I’m happy to have voted out. Humbled Prime Minister David Cameron, in a speech whereby he gave a nod to religious plurality and same sex relationships, has announced they’re stepping down in October. They were described as having their authority “Drained away” overnight. How will the exit play out in the upcoming weeks and months, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Nigel Farage, predominant out enthusiast and leader of the United Kingdom Independence party, wagered a grand of his own money on the British people exiting Europe, did they know something the voting public didn’t? Well, no, since within minutes of the first vote coming in he was saying the out campaigners had probably lost (talk about your pre-victory jitters!)

― T. C. M

More than three years after David Cameron unveiled his strategy to reform Europe and put it to a referendum, Britain has voted to leave.

It is the greatest disaster to befall the block in its 59-year history. The road ahead is unclear. No state has left the European Union before, and the rules for exit – contained in Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon – are brief.

What to expect today

Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, meets the Conference of Presidents at around 8.30am, to agree a common position from MEPs. They are expected to demand that Article 50 is triggered immediately, to prevent months of uncertainty.

At 10.30am, the four most powerful men in Brussels – Donald Tusk, president of the Council, Jean-Claude Juncker of the Commission, Mark Rutte, the Dutch premier who holds the rotating presidency of the Council, and Mr Schulz meet. They will speak afterwards.

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has said it is ready to intervene to steady the markets. Central bankers from Japan to Switzerland have also offered to step in to provide additional liquidity – a measure not seen since the financial crisis.

On Saturday, the foreign ministers of the founding six member states – France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy and Belgium – will meet to discuss the implications of the British vote.

The summit

David Cameron, if he remains in office, will next see his counterparts at a European Council summit on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

The deal, struck after months of negotiation last summer, has evaporated under a ‘self-destruct’ clause.

He will be under intense pressure to activate Article 50 and commence exit negotiations. Leaders do not want to be drawn into months and years of haggling over Britain’s status: “Out is out,” Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday.

By contrast, the official Out campaign has said there is no need to trigger Article 50 until informal negotiations have taken place – potentially lasting years.

Also on the agenda is a discussion of the migration crisis, including tentative proposals for “compacts” to speedily deport migrants back to Africa and the current deployment of naval craft off Libya to intercept smugglers. Britain has a major role in this – a British warship is deployed in the EU’s naval operation and a second has been promised – but the crisis takes a back seat.

Article 50 – and a new deal

Triggering Article 50, formally notifying the intension to withdraw, starts a two-year clock running. After that, the Treaties that govern membership no longer apply to Britain. The terms of exit will be negotiated between Britain’s 27 counterparts, and each will have a veto over the conditions.

It will also be subject to ratification in national parliaments, meaning, for example, that Belgian MPs could stymie the entire process.

Two vast negotiating teams will be created, far larger than those seen in the British renegotiation. The EU side is likely to be headed by one of the current Commissioners.

Untying Britain from the old membership is the easy bit. Harder would be agreeing a new trading relationship, establishing what tariffs and other barriers to entry are permitted, and agreeing on obligations such as free movement. Such a process, EU leaders claim, could take another five years.

Business leaders want the easiest terms possible, to prevent economic harm. But political leaders say the conditions will be brutal to discourage other states from following suit.

The Department for Brexit

One option will be to simply recreate EU laws as British statute. But Civil Service insiders expect a new Brexit government to opt for something much more radical, and to use the opportunity of “throwing off the shackles” to re-regulate Britain.

It means that the Government would have to do three acts simultaneous: negotiate a new deal with Brussels, win a series of major bilateral trade deals around the world, and revise its own governance as EU law recedes.

Running the show would be an effective “Ministry for Brexit”, under a senior minister.

Officials expect the scrapping of EU law could result in an avalanche of new legislation in every corner of Whitehall – perhaps 25 Bills in every Queen’s Speech for a decade.

Hundreds of Treasury lawyers and experts would have to be hired for areas – such as health and safety, financial services and employment – where Britain had lost competence to Brussels. Meanwhile, a Trade Ministry will be required, with hundreds of new negotiators, to establish new deals around the world.

Brussels reels

The focus in Brussels now turns to holding the project together.

Proposals for closer defence integration, prepared by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, were due to be sent to national governments today. That is likely to be put on hold. But building up the EU’s defence co-operation is regarded by France and Germany as an obvious way of rebooting the project.

Jean-Claude Juncker has called for tighter integration in the event of a Brexit, and has laid out plans for integration of the Eurozone, including a treasury, in order to prevent a recurrence of the Greek crisis. Hitherto, member states have not been ready for that conversation – but the crisis of Brexit is likely to push it up the agenda.

At the same time, leaders fear that Brexit could trigger a domino effect as the bloc without Britain becomes less attractive to liberal, rich northern states such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where demands are growing for copy-cat plebiscites.

The Dutch elections are held in March next year, the French in April and May and Germany in the Autumn. If an independent Britain proves to be a success, the bloc could quickly unravel.

On March 25, 2017, European leaders will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding document. It will be a fraught celebration.

Read more here.

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