EU Summit: ‘No Compromises’ for Britain after ‘Last Supper’
By the end of a difficult day yesterday at the EU summit, there was quail and green bean salad followed by poached veal tenderloin with seasonal baby vegetables to soothe upset stomachs, but the gourmand menu only whetted anxieties and fed insecurities. The talks did not go down so well. There was jeering, sadness, disappointment and harsh criticism. Britain was given some time to think, but urged to be decisive. If this felt like it was Britain’s last supper, that was because Farage gladly played the role of Judas, and was booed subsequently.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday at the European Parliament: “We must respect the will of the British people” and “there must be consequences”. He demanded that the British government clarifies the situation quickly to avoid uncertainty, stressing that there will be “No notification, no negotiations”.
EPP group leader Manfred Weber promised Britain’s youth that “We won’t leave you on your own” (more than 73% of young people voted “remain”). He addressed Nigel Farage by calling him a “liar” and “shame on you” and emphasised that “We now expect an Article 50 notification and swift and fair exit negotiations.” It was time to take responsibility and insisted that “The times of appeasement are over.”
Today is seeing the 27 European leaders meeting without the UK for an opening discussion about the changed world of their member states and their future strategies. The Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, noted that Tuesday was about Britain, but Wednesday “is about us, what we are going to do about our unity”.
Post-Brexit Global Markets
There is a rise today in global markets as fears about Brexit diminish. The pound rose by 0.4% and the euro by 0.2% against the dollar. Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley, comparing the risks after Brexit to those during the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that sparked the 2008 financial crisis, said: “People are starting to take stock that this is more country-specific and is not affecting markets everywhere,” and “So far, it doesn’t appear to be a big risk to global growth.” While US shares are expected to rise, there are fears of the UK economy falling into recession in the coming year. (An illustrated history of the pound sterling 1791-2016 can be found here). Uncertainty will continue as Britain’s situation remains unresolved, but investors remain hopeful that the Brexit plague will be contained.
Talking of plagues, there’s another infection running in the streets of Britain that is poisoned by those 1940s biological metaphors. Until now we have witnessed on social media and the streets people being verbally and physically abused. There is also the dissemination of cards being put in Polish families’ letter boxes referring to them as “vermin”—let’s not forget that vermin and vampires were the Nazis’ favourite words for the Jews—so we are definitely in a dangerous zone here.
Keep Scotland In
Dangerously determined is Nicola Sturgeon who is in Brussels for a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz and other EU officials to discuss the possibility of Scotland remaining in the EU. The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will not be present. In the meantime, while the Labour party is clouded by doubts and sabotage, the SNP in Westminster is demanding to be recognised as the Official Opposition now that Angus Robertson has the support of 14 more MPs than Jeremy Corbyn. Pete Wishart has twitted that the SNP has “shadows in every department and ministry” and that “Labour can no longer meet its obligations to remain as the ‘official’ opposition.”
Article 50: To pull the trigger or not?
It sets out in 250 words the conditions whereby any member state may withdraw from the EU. It clarifies that the leaving party should inform the European Council of its departure and negotiate a deal that will also include a future relationship with the EU. In case the two-year deadline fails to yield any positive results, the UK will exit without any further arrangements. No country has ever triggered article 50. It seems that no one yet wants to be the baddie and pull the trigger.
Leaving the EU
Within two years the UK has to leave the EU. First there is the triggering of article 50 of the treaty on the EU and the 27 EU member states discussing the withdrawal. In the second stage the negotiations between the UK and EU will begin, with the UK drafting and submitting a deal to the European Council to approve. After 20 countries with 65% of the population approve it, it will have to be also accepted by the European Parliament. If the 27 countries agree, negotiations may be extended beyond the two-year limit. But if they don’t want any extension, the EU treaties will have no application to the UK. As the UK leaves the EU, the UK Parliament will have to revoke the 1972 European Communities Act and sketch a new agreement. According to this Act, the European Union law was incorporated into the UK’s domestic law, which meant that any UK laws that were in disagreement with European law, were revoked. After this long and consuming process, the UK might change its mind. If this happens, it will have to apply like any other country that wants to be part of the EU.
Can there be an EU-turn?
While the British public (excluding London, Scotland and Northern Ireland where the Remain campaign has the highest share) voted to leave the EU, there are dissenting voices demanding that the UK remains within the EU. While Angela Merkel insisted that “I see no possibility to reverse this. We would do well to accept this reality,” US secretary of state, John Kerry answered: “I think there are a number of ways.” It is possible, perhaps, and there are many speculative scenarios including a second referendum, Labour taking a pro-European stance with a new leader, or Scottish Nationalists refusing to approve the UK’s leave from the EU.
A march against Brexit is being organised in London on Facebook for Saturday. But the horizon is shaded with many obstacles, including the fever of the coming elections that will only sharpen appetites, rather than soothe tempers.