Post-referendum Britain needs post-stupid conversations


Now I’m getting used to the idea of Britain outside the EU, which whether I was for or dead bloody against is now irrelevant, there are questions.

Not bullshit ones like “where’s the £350m for the NHS, then?” because those claims were always lies. It just didn’t matter that they were, because we were demonstrably not making a factual choice here we were making an emotional one. Experts were not welcome. It’s been called a post-fact and post-truth referendum. Whatever. Now there is a need to be post-stupid, because there are serious questions like “what next for…”

1. Import tariffs

Britain currently does all its trade with EU members tariff-free. It takes two years to exit the EU. It takes at least five years to negotiate a free trade deal. There would therefore be a gap period when Britain has left the EU and has not yet reached a free trade deal with it. In such a gap period, WTO tariffs of 10.2% would apply to food (and other lower tariffs on everything else) between Britain and EU members.

Furthermore trade between Britain and non-EU countries whose existing trade deals with Britain are EU-based will also be subject to renegotiation, but surely on a faster timetable than with the EU as largest trading block in the world.

Britain currently trades significant amounts of food, particularly with EU members and mostly to import food, and I would like to hear a coherent strategy on this matter and proposed policy goals.

On this one, the clock on higher prices at supermarket checkouts is audibly ticking: let’s not do that, OK?

2. Scotland

In the broadest strokes, Scotland’s relationship with Britain is not dissimilar to Britain’s (former) relationship with the EU. Close, mutually beneficial, but with clear faultlines and a general nationalist sense that I don’t get everything I want from this bigger group, so local independence could be a good thing for me.

The last referendum on Scottish independence showed that where Scotland differs from England is that it wants independence not at a severe material price.

However English voters have just decided the opposite, to take more independence and pay the price. Scotland continued to choose to preserve the status quo. So the question now is what is more costly for Scotland: exiting the EU and remaining part of Britain, or exiting Britain and joining the EU? Neither is particularly more attractive for Scotland than the status quo they voted to preserve, but I want to hear what is being proposed to ensure Scotland remains in Britain. Not only because I think this island is weaker divided, but also I don’t want to have to bother getting dual citizenship for the family thanks.

3. Ireland

Peace in Ireland currently relies on EU mechanisms including an open border and supranational oversight of British policing including under the ECHR.

Britain has just voted to exit the EU explicitly and specifically to stop both of these EU mechanisms: control immigration by closing the borders, and to deliver British justice by taking back control from the ECHR.

Now we are where we are, I want to know how we square this Irish circle. I have no opinion on what the outcome should be except that the best interests of the population there, not here, should be put first, and I’d rather avoid creating any more terrorism with crass and ignorant politics. We’ve got enough of that already.

4. Public spending in poorer areas

The EU is the mechanism for much of what small redistribution of money there is from the more productive areas to the less productive areas.
I want to hear how the British government plans to deal with this issue particularly in the context of fiscal and political devolution of national powers to regional bodies.

5. The law

Our legal system is firmly entwined with the EU system and has been for 40 years. When we leave the EU those laws will become unenforceable. Therefore by the time we leave the EU, many laws will need to have been redrafted, which means working really fast right now.

I want to hear how this process is proposed to be managed.

I am highly concerned that a single government will effectively be required to rewrite British law. This is an unprecedented risk of new, probably illiberal, badly thought out laws being rushed in by the bucketful.

Will the sheer volume of work require delegation of the power to do it away from parliament to a sub group? Or can parliament somehow actually process that volume of lawmaking in that short a time? How meaningfully engaged would the electorate be in any such process?


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