Are you ready for another dose of Brexititis? This past week, PM May triggered Article 50, meaning negotiations can begin, after due examination by the 27 remaining states, between the exiting UK (or, at least, the parts that survive) and the EU but only as a body. The EU has forbidden the divide and rule of the UK pitting one EU member against another, an insidious act by what Guardian journalist, Antony Beevor, called last year “the most hated nation in Europe”. The terms of Mrs May’s letter didn’t win too many friends either.
The PM wanted to negotiate exit terms at the same time as a new trade deal. She also inferred a trade deal could mean the UK would continue to share its intelligence gathering from its large spying, sorry, security, infrastructure. Nice one, Theresa. How to win friends and influence people by suggesting that if you know there is going to be a terror attack on, say, Paris, you won’t tell the French until it’s too late – unless you get a trade deal. Ye Gods!
Donald Tusk, the EU President, and the European Council put the kybosh on even discussing trade or a new relationship until the nuts and bolts of the negotiating procedure had been decided, the bill for divorce agreed (it looks it will be around £60 billion), the fate of EU nationals in the UK had been sealed and what kind of soft border would be erected between Northern Ireland and the Republic. For good measure, the Council lobbed in Gibraltar. Any future trade deal between the UK and the EU will not include the UK territory and military base, known as ‘The Rock’. The UK will have to negotiate with Spain which claims it and currently has a nationalistic far-right Government. Who said Brexit wasn’t all-encompassing?
Meanwhile in Westminster, one old codger, an unheard of English Conservative MP, said the day after the triggering of Article 50 that we would now be able to get rid of this “ghastly EU legislation”- such as ensuring workers’ rights, presumably. He will have to wait a while. There are more than 12,000 EU regulations in force, 7,900 statutory instruments implementing EU legislation and 186 Acts which have some sort of EU influence. Ditto with the three devolved legislatures. When the UK leaves the EU, all this law will become British domestic law. The Government then has to go through it like an old bag of clothes and throw out what it doesn’t like, using a law from the time of Henry VIII (I kid you not) to give temporary executive power to the barking Brexiteers. This will only apply to insignificant ‘stuff’ while Parliament will decide on the important ‘stuff’. No-one trusts them. I assure Australia I am not making this up!!
Back on my home turf, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, met on Monday with Theresa May in Glasgow though Her Mayness had refused to meet in a Scottish Government, building preferring a hotel. That got talks off to a fine and dandy start. May gave no concessions and no inkling of what even the Article 50 letter, to be signed two days later, contained, leaving Northern Ireland and Wales in the dark too, having reneged on her promise to consult deeply the devolved nations (i.e. the subservient ones). The Scottish Parliament voted for another independence referendum within a timetable of 18 months to two years so that the broad brushstrokes of the Brexit deal will be known and the people of Scotland who voted 62% to remain in the EU would have a choice to be an independent state in the EU or continue as a region of a Brexited UK. May flicked the sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament away as if it were a pesky midge.
‘The Herald’ in Glasgow, the day after the Article 50 letter was signed, had emblazoned the following on its front page:
The Beginning of the End: After 44 years in the EU, a bloc covering 500 million people and 28 countries, a letter 6 pages long from a British Prime Minister begins the process that in 2 years will see the UK leave the body credited with ensuring 60 years of European peace.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan boasts of having been able to destroy God’s creation in a single day whereas it had taken the Creator-in-chief seven days to make it (Mesopotamian mythology from which the story comes doesn’t have contemporary time lines!). The realisation then dawns that Satan has no idea whatsoever of what it is he has destroyed. It seems to be the same for May and her merry band of Brexiteers like David Davis and Boris Johnston who seem to think of leaving the EU as a jolly caper on a sunny day in the fields of Eton. The madness continues.
Duncan MacLaren is an Adjunct Professor of Australian Catholic University but writes in a personal capacity.