As the magic of the World Cup wears off, we’ve got to come to terms with the fact that the UK is slowly imploding politically. It’s increasingly looking like the Brexit that we will get, is nothing like the Brexit any of us wanted.
In my opinion, in the event of a hard Brexit, the only choice must be a second referendum. If we put aside the conspiracy theories and the racialised and xenophobic subtext of the Leave Campaign and assume that the critical reason for our departure from the EU was regaining our sovereignty, the options left on the table seem set to underwhelm like you wouldn’t believe.
A Hard Brexit
The referendum gave us the options to ‘leave the EU’ or ‘remain in the EU’. The problem is, after voting ‘leave’ we’ve realised that there’s more than one way that we could end up leaving. The most disastrous way to exit Europe, in my opinion, is via a term you’ve probably heard already – a hard Brexit. On the ‘leaving spectrum’, this is the far right position in which formal ties with the EU are cut and subsequent legal relationships (especially those that concern movement of people between the EU and UK, the primacy of EU law over UK law and access to the EU’s single market) will have to be renegotiated under our own terms.
For Leavers, this is good; as the ‘hard’ in ‘hard Brexit’ would mean hard borders, hard immigration requirements and a return to the hard rule of Parliamentary Sovereignty.
No one really wants a hard Brexit. This is my opinion. While the above seems fine, especially if you value the independent statehood of the United Kingdom, the independent statehood of the United Kingdom will be under direct threat if we leave the European Union in this fashion. Why? Here are a few reasons:
We’d be really lacking in friends…
Without any formal access to the European Union, the UK’s standing internationally will be diminished, especially since we have an informal role as “America’s man on the inside of the EU“. A big part of Britain’s economic and political appeal was its clout in Brussels which is set to end the moment that we exit the EU institutions next year.
It Threatens the UK’s Very Existence
A Hard Brexit throws into question the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; the former in the UK, the latter in the EU. Least of all, it could render the Good Friday Agreement inoperable and could reignite the bloody conflict between the nations. Northern Ireland voted by a 10% margin to remain in the EU and may choose cessation to the Republic over the potential conflict sparked by leaving with the rest of the EU.
In a similar way, Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU could launch its own Second referendum and this time the Scottish Independence campaign has a much clearer example of the tyranny of Westminster to bolster their claims that Scotland should withdraw from the UK.
At least Wales will probably still be with us!
A Poorer Britain
Britain will be poorer in the short term, probably in the long term too. The Office for Budget Responsibility calculated that financial obligations owed towards the EU will continue until 2064, with an estimated £37 Billion owed to them. This is because under the UN Treaty of Vienna, a party leaving a treaty still pays existing obligations under that treaty.
We could always just leave the UN as well though, I guess.
The only people who could possibly be OK with the threat of these possibilities are nihilists who are willing to hold on to their ideological position over the good of the country. Our government has refused the idea of a second referendum but may have to consider it because the will of the people seems to be the only thing preventing the Brexit hardliners in the Tory party from sinking the entire nation.
Is a second referendum the way to go now?