An article appeared on Reuters yesterday, mentioned by Richard North in his article, which stated that, in the event of a Leave vote by the electorate of the United Kingdom, the European Union would seek a swift divorce from the United Kingdom, coupled with statements by two EU sources familiar with the bloc’s latest thinking on a possible Brexit telling Reuters on Thursday that there was no appetite to grant any extension of the two years provided by Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty for negotiating a withdrawal, while any new trade partnership would take many more years to conclude. The Reuters article also states that tentative plans exist for the Commission to hold a rare Sunday meeting on June 26 to set its strategy; and that EU leaders would hold a brief summit with Britain two days later, at which London would be expected to give formal notice to quit.
It should be noted that the LIsbon Treaty contains no provision whereby the European Union can ‘divorce’ any Member State who adheres to its rules; and that divorce proceedings can only be instituted by a Member State stating, through Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, that it wishes to start such proceedings.
It should also be noted that European Leaders can ‘expect’ all they want, but again there is no requirement that Article 50 should be formally lodged within days of any referendum calling for a divorce from the European Union. It must though be remembered that David Cameron stated in the House of Commons on 22nd February 2016: If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger Article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away. Being the good European Union lackey that Cameron undoubtedly is, the European Leaders may well get their wish.
It appears to becoming increasingly obvious that Cameron will get the result for which he wishes; due to not only his lying and misrepresenting facts in relation to the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, but also the ineptitude of Vote_Leave and other ‘Out’ campaigns, the political class and other commentators and economists (see article linked to above), none of whom appear to know anything about the subject matter and who are unable to present a coherent, consensual case. As a result Cameron can sleep easy without having to worry about triggering Article 50 – or when.
Another very important point that needs to be made is that not one of the Leave Groups, with the notable exception of The Leave Alliance, have presented any exit plan or strategy for so doing, other than their stated belief that, in the twinkling of an eye, a trade agreement could be done.
FlexCit, the exit plan supported by The Leave Alliance, incorporates what is intended as a holding position’ while a fresh arrangement is negotiated. This would involve the United Kingdom applying to rejoin EFTA and the EEA, thus safeguarding continued trade with the European Union but not being subjected to what is termed the ‘political baggage’.
Interestingly, any application to EFTA for membership is entirely a matter for those states – the EU has no voice. On that point leading Norwegians have, in effect, said that the UK would be welcome in EFTA. According to the EEA Agreement any application for membership of the EEA is heard by the EEA Council which consists of the members of the Council of the European Communities and members of the EC Commission, and of one member of the Government of each of the EFTA States. Decisions by the EEA Council shall be taken by agreement between the Community, on the one hand, and the EFTA States, on the other (Article 90: EEA Agreement). Any European State becoming a member of the Community shall, and the Swiss Confederation or any European State becoming a member of EFTA may, apply to become a party to this Agreement. It shall address its application to the EEA Council (Article 128: EEA Agreement).
Reverting to the Reuters article, one gets the impression that the EU is indulging in a little ‘muscle flexing’ while at the same time ‘puffing out its chest’ with a view to intimidating the UK. Simplistic as it may well be, but what better way to deflate chests and unflex muscles than, following a Leave vote, to trigger Article 50 and at the first meeting inform the EU that whilst we wish to leave we are not completely leaving as (thud) thats a copy of our application to rejoin EFTA and (thud) thats a copy of our application to rejoin the EEA. In the ensuing silence then pose the question: next?