Saturday 9 April 2016

No, we cannot uniilaterally wthdraw from the EU

There are those who believe we can leave the EU unilaterally, saying that we can repeal the European Communities Act. I could cry when people say this. Firstly, what do they think would happen to our credit rating by pulling out unilaterally? Secondly, Eurosceptics are right. The EU is not just a trade bloc. It is so much more. It is integrated at nearly every level of government.

We have cooperation agreements ranging from food safety, counterfeit goods, Europol, air traffic control, fisheries protection, coastguard cooperation, you name it. Some of these agreements are pegged to EU membership. By unilaterally ending our membership without negotiating a settlement, all of these agreements cease to apply the moment the repeal bill passes into law.

That means trucks have to go through different customs procedures, must submit to spot checks and in some cases be directed to entirely different ports. All of this upsets long established procedures and causes absolute chaos. If you wanted to make sure all of the Brexit scares came true, this is what you would do.

This notion that the EU would come to the table at our command is a little optimistic. If we elect to leave the single market as well as the EU, the EU erects tariff barriers, not out of spite, but because it has a common external tariff. That's just the legal default.

The EU has a common external tariff that it must apply to all non-EEA members. If we match it in reciprocation, under non-discrimination rules, we have to impose tariffs on all our other trading partners. That creates havoc, so we end up not imposing tariffs on the EU while they impose tariffs on us.

We could negotiate a "free trade deal" but a simple agreement on tariffs doesn't even begin to settle issues surrounding non-tariff barriers and if we wanted a comprehensive deal then the EU would have conditions tilted in its own favour. Moreover, the likelihood of such being concluded inside two years are nil. We may leave the EU but if we want the same favourable access to the single market then we will have to stay in the EEA.

This is why we will leave the EU via Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty and this is why we will keep the single market and this is why for the time being we will continue with freedom of movement. It is suboptimal but it's better than being in the EU. That's going to piss a lot of hard-liners off who want to leave the EU in a single bound and pay nothing into the budget. That's just fucking tough.

They may not like the fact that it does not get us all the way out of the EU and the single market but at the very least it ensures trade is not affected in any way. That kills nearly all of the scares stone dead - not least because our academic cooperation and security agreements remain in place. Unless we can guarantee continuity of trade there is no way we can persuade people to vote to leave anyway since their jobs might be on the line so I have absolutely no idea why anybody proposes unilateral withdrawal.

The fact is, if we want to join the global trading community we will have to do it in stages. It took forty years to go in and it will take almost as long to get out. You go out the way you came in rather than heading for the emergency exit when the house is not on fire.

But as much as that means we won't be losing any jobs or seeing the sacrifice of the firstborn, it also means we won't be saving billions to spend on the NHS. These are the childish fantasies of Tory free marketeers in the Leave campaign who ironically would abolish the NHS given half the chance.

There is only one way to do this. Slowly and carefully. If you are not prepared to preach that message get used to staying in the EU because this "slam the door shut" nonsense is absolutely repellent to swing voters and there is not a cat in hell's chance business will support it. Without reassuring business and the public, there is simply no way to get out from under the dead hand of supranationalism - and bugger all chance of ever seeing democracy in our lifetimes.

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