After Exit

Sir Ivan Rogers has resigned. I am surprised by the certainty of those who want to tell us that this is either fantastic news or a disaster. I am sure that I do not know.

His resigning letter is worth reading though. I would draw your attention to the following sentence.

“We do not yet know what the Government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit.”

There are several reasons why this sentence is interesting, most of which are liable to be missed by the usual suspects because they are not yet thinking in that direction.

While the idea of transitional arrangements has been at least partially acknowledged, there is not yet any clarity regarding the form those arrangements could or should take. The obvious choice, given the infeasibility of finding agreement on new forms for product certification, market surveillance and dispute resolution in the allotted time, is for the UK to step into the EFTA pillar of the EEA agreement and use the annexes which are part of the EEA to begin to model a bespoke relationship.

Agreement on using EFTA/EEA as a framework for future co-operation and collaboration in the short- to medium-term provides enough clarity for businesses to make plans and solves several immediate political problems, allowing the UK government to fulfil the strict referendum mandate delivered by the British people on June 23rd 2016 within two years, and allowing the EU to quickly move beyond the Article 50 process so as to focus on the escalating crises in the eurozone and across the Mediterranean.

Now, I would like to turn your attention back to Ivan Roger’s sentence and, in particular, the part about the “UK’s relationship with the EU after exit”. If you haven’t cottoned on to it yet, the words I find so interesting are “after exit”. That, after all, is what Brexit is all about; defining a new relationship for the UK with the EU after exit.

Yet, who among the legacy politicians and pundits is even broaching the subject of what should happen after we leave the EU? For all of the tedious repetition of (frequently misunderstood) technicalities, the broader vision for how the UK and EU should interrelate in the years and decades to come is curiously absent. It is as if people really have swallowed the europhile propaganda mistaking Europe and the EU.

Britain is part of Europe and Europe is part of Britain, always was, always will be. Britain leaving the EU makes that fact clearer than ever. Europe is our neighbourhood and, for the foreseeable future, that means working with the EU and its member countries.

While an interim or transitional deal can suffice in the short-term, it is already apparent that both Britain and the EU will need to agree a comprehensive framework for future co-operation, which does not see one side holding a whip hand over.

The foot dragging from those who imagine that it is still feasible for Britain to remain and the zealotry of the Tory right represent the kind of extremes that I voted to avoid. A constructive approach will deliver a better outcome for all concerned. We need to start thinking beyond the exit arrangements.

Brexit is not an ending, it is the beginning of another chapter. If we raise our eyes from the immediate concern of a low-impact exit, perhaps we can also begin to debate and discuss what should come after exit.

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