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A conversation about Brexit

Saturday, November 5, 2016 5:23
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“So what does Brexit mean?”

“It means Britain will leave the EU.”

“Is that it?”

“Essentially yes. The referendum asked the British people whether they wanted to Remain in the EU or Leave the EU. A majority said they wanted to Leave.” (have a look at the ballot paper here)

“Why can’t Britain just get on with it now then?”

“Because we do not know the details of Brexit or when the exit process should start.” (note – by exit process I mean the notification to trigger Article 50)

“You mean we did not know these things before the vote?”

“Well Cameron said he would start the process the day after the vote. But then he did not do it, and resigned. There was also no clear plan for Brexit laid out before the referendum.” (note – this was different to the Scottish referendum where a White Paper laid out how independence would work)

“But didn’t the government send a leaflet to all British households?”

“Yes it did, and it said the government will implement what the people decide. But it did not say how or when. It also did not say what role the Houses of Parliament should have in the process.”

“But wasn’t the referendum about controlling immigration?”

“We don’t know”

“We don’t know?”

“Indeed we don’t know. Norway is outside the EU but has freedom of movement with the EU. Canada is outside the EU and does not have freedom of movement. But both Canada and Norway are outside the EU, and Brexit means Britain leave the EU.” (see this piece summing up the polling – there is not even clear polling evidence on this issue)

“Don’t be ridiculous”

“This is not being ridiculous. There is nothing that was said or done before the EU referendum that makes it crystal clear what sort of Brexit the people had voted for. Some Leave voters wanted Britain to stay in the EU’s Single Market. Some wanted immigration control. Some wanted both. Some wanted neither. But there was no clear answer to this issue.”

“But wasn’t it about giving money to the NHS instead of giving money to the EU?”

“That was on the side of a bus. The government has said it cannot do that. That was a campaign slogan and was non-binding anyway.”

“So what’s the fuss about the High Court decision this week?”

“The High Court essentially said that it is the Houses of Parliament, and not Theresa May on her own, who can decide when the Brexit process will start.”

“Is that it?”


“So the judges were not blocking Brexit?”

“No, absolutely not. They simply made a judgment on who has the power to start the process – to send the Article 50 notification to the EU to start the exit procedure.”

“But won’t Parliament block Brexit?”

“We don’t know. But plenty of MPs who backed Remain before the vote have subsequently said they will respect the referendum result. And anyway we do not know for sure how they will behave, so let’s see.”

“But aren’t they thwarting the will of the British people?”

“If they actually stop Brexit happening, yes, you could argue that. But the details of Brexit – essentially the balance of the politics and economics of it – and the important decision on when the process should start, were not decided either way by the referendum. Those are now questions for Parliament.” (more from the Flipchart Rick blog about this point)

“But did we not know the answers to those questions before the referendum?”



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