Brexit: The Knowns, The Unknowns, And What Happens Next?
An FTI Brexit Bowl Breakfast with Sir Philip Lowe
Theodore Roosevelt’s once famously remarked that public opinion frequently combined “the unbridled tongue with the unready hand.” The evident lack of adequate preparation and assessment of the various policy options under Brexit before and after the vote is an obvious example of the phenomenon that Roosevelt warned against.
The vote for Brexit, which the new Prime Minister is committed to implement, presents challenges and opportunities both for the UK and the 27 remaining EU Member States. There are obvious risks and uncertainties around the process of disengagement of the UK from the Union, and the formation of a new UK/EU relationship. These risks can be controlled and minimised if there are a sufficient number of cool heads and clear thinkers on both sides of the negotiation.
Despite some recent legal debate on the subject, there is unlikely to be any need for a parliamentary vote to endorse either the referendum result or the decision to trigger withdrawal under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. However, once an agreement has been reached with the EU27 under article 50, it will be necessary for the UK parliament to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. ("Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements").
This agreement, which will be decided by qualified majority on the EU27 side, is first and foremost about the “divorce” of the UK from the EU and the conditions under which it will be implemented. But the divorce agreement will also refer to the framework of the future relationship between the UK and EU. It is likely to include an agenda for detailed negotiations in specific policy areas such as trade, the single market and free movement of people. In principle this agenda could include target deadlines for the completion of specific chapters of the negotiations. These deadlines will where necessary extend beyond the two-year deadline for the article 50 agreement itself. On the EU side, an agreement on future UK/EU27 trading relations will require a unanimous vote of the EU Member States. Based on the recent Canada precedent, there will also be a need for ratification of the agreements by EU national parliaments.