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29 March 2017

Prime Minster May finally delivers the “Article 50” notification of intention to leave the EU

The 63% of British voters who did not vote to Leave may yet force Prime Minster May to ask their permission to accept the terms that result from this negotiation.

Her six-page letter stated four times that the future partnership terms should be agreed alongside those of withdrawal.  The first, brief response from the European Council baldly stated “we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.” The UK government’s strategy seems to have failed to survive the very first contact with the other side.  

The letter admits there will be “consequences” – as did the Chancellor this morning. These may come as an unexpected surprise to the 90% of voters whom pollsters report want to remain in the single market.

Mrs May addressed Parliament this morning:

  •  She promised to "represent every person in the whole United Kingdom" during the negotiations. This may be a difficult task as only 37% of the electorate voted to Leave.
  • Further, this marks "the moment for the country to come together". She did not mention that 100,000 citizens – mainly from “middle England” - marched through the streets of London on March 25th to protest against Brexit and join in the 60th birthday celebrations for the EU.
  • “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back." EU legal opinion seems to have a clear view that an “intention” can be revoked – as is common sense and the explicit view of the author of Article 50 - Lord Kerr.

President Tusk’s response was clear “But paradoxically there is also something positive in Brexit. Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before. I am fully confident of this, especially after the Rome declaration, and today I can say that we will remain determined and united also in the future, also during the difficult negotiations ahead… This means that both I and the Commission have a strong mandate to protect the interests of the 27.”

The 63% of British voters who did not vote to Leave may yet force Prime Minister May to ask their permission to accept the terms that result from this negotiation.

Comments on draft EP resolution: Revoking Art 50

It is a sad reflection on how far trust in the UK’s good faith has sunk already that the European Parliament feels obliged to include clause L – see below. The most likely route to making a request to revoke the “notice of intention to leave” would be through a further Referendum on the proposed exit terms – or perhaps a General Election.  

If such a well-grounded request to revoke and remain in the EU on current terms were refused on purely political grounds that would represent a dramatic repudiation of the essence of the European Union. At the other extreme, if it were a disgracefully blatant manoeuvre by the Brexiteer component of the current UK government, then its refusal would be entirely understandable and appropriate.

© Graham Bishop

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