Brexit: The History of Britain and the EU’s Not So Special Relationship

On 23 June 2016 the UK’s EU referendum took place, and the UK voted to leave the European Union. After several years of debates as to how this would take place, the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. After that, the transition period that was in place – during which nothing changed – ended on 31 December 2020, and the rules governing the new relationship between the EU and UK took effect on 1 January 2021.

The issue of the UK’s departure from the EU continues to be hotly debated, but it can be easy to forget that our relationship with the European project has never been a smooth one. Here is a brief(ish) history of Britain and the EU.

A rocky start

Perhaps it’s geography – the fact that the UK is a group of islands and separated from the European mainland. Or perhaps it’s the innate sense of superiority that Britain continues to feel over its European neighbours – a hangover from its time as the biggest empire the world has ever seen.

Whatever it is, Britain has always seemed like a outlier of the European project, a reluctant participant with one foot always out the door.

The former president of France, Charles de Gaulle, seemed to recognise this from the off. In 1967, he cited the UK’s “deep-seated hostility” to European construction as one of his reasons for rejecting its second application to join the European Economic Community, one of the precursor bodies to the EU.

Many have accused De Gaulle of having a personal grudge against Britain. But it’s fair to say that there was some truth in what he was saying. When the British Conservative Prime Minister Harold MacMillan announced in the House of Commons that the UK was making its first formal application to join the EEC in 1961, some in the chamber responded with cries of “shame”.

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Of course, this wasn’t the whole story; many in Britain were desperate to join the ECC, in particular the Europhile politician Ted Heath, who was the Conservatives’ chief negotiator in discussions to join the Common Market in the early 1960s.

Two years after De Gaulle’s death, the UK was eventually accepted into the ECC under Heath in 1972, who was by then the British prime minister, and officially became a member the following year on 1 January 1973. But almost immediately its membership appeared to be under threat from naysayers back home.

The first referendum

Just under two years after the UK became a member of the EEC, the opposition Labour Party ran on a general election platform that promised a referendum on this membership. Sound familiar? Well, in some ways, it was.

Like the Conservative Party under David Cameron, the Labour Party under Harold Wilson was thoroughly divided. After Labour won the election in October 1974, the government was officially in favour of staying in the ECC. But a party conference held in April the following year had attendees voting two to one in favour of withdrawal.

Unlike in June 2016, however, the British public in June 1975 – when Labour followed through on its promise to hold a referendum – wasn’t so split. Although turnout was low at just under 65%, 67.2% voted in favour of remaining in the European Communities – the collective term for three European organisations that were governed by the same institutions, among them the ECC.

By contrast, just 51.9% of voters chose to leave the EU in 2016.

The logo for the “Remain” campaign in the 1975 referendum. (Image Credit: MrPenguin20 / Commons).

But the UK still wasn’t what you’d call a full paid-up member of the European project. In 1979 it opted out of the European Monetary System, an arrangement designed to stabilise exchange rates across its members that is commonly viewed as a precursor to the eurozone.

And in 1983, an opposition Labour Party ran a general election campaign on the promise of withdrawing from the EC without a referendum at all.

Thatcher’s renegotiation

Though Labour was roundly defeated in 1983, it didn’t mean that British-European relations were in for a smooth sail with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government at the helm.

Part of the lingering hostility towards Europe was based on the perception that Britain was putting in more than it was getting out. Financial contributions were partly based on the VAT base of each country and not only was the UK’s proportionately higher in comparison to its gross national product than other members, but it seemed to be losing out when it came to agricultural subsidies too.

Around 70% of the European Communities budget went towards the Common Agricultural Policy, something that implemented a system of subsidies for farmers and other programmes. With the UK having a small agricultural sector, it wasn’t benefiting from CAP.

As a result, in June 1984, Thatcher negotiated a rebate for the UK that amounted to roughly 66% of its net contribution. This rebate did not come easily, however, and has remained a source of much tension between Britain and Europe ever since. In addition, the fact that the UK is the only member state to have what is effectively a permanent rebate has only added to its outside status in Europe.

For a few years after the rebate’s negotiation, though, it did seem as though things were beginning to look up for British-European relations.

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In 1975, the UK ratified the Single European Act with the full support of Thatcher’s government. Not only was the act the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome – which established the ECC – but it set the Economic Community the momentous target of achieving a single market by 1992, as well as deepening political cooperation.

But, of course, the (sort of) good times weren’t to last.

The Eurosceptic ‘bastards’

Despite Thatcher’s deep reservations, in October 1990 the UK joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism, yet another precursor to the euro zone which this time saw the pound pegged to the German deutschmark. A month later, Thatcher resigned as prime minister amid divisions that stemmed at least in part from her party’s increasingly polarised views on Europe.

In September 1992, the Eurosceptics seemed to be proved right when the UK came crashing out of the ERM after the government was unable to stop the pound from going below its agreed lower value limit – an episode known as “Black Wednesday” due to the huge losses it brought to bear on taxpayers.

And that wasn’t to be the end of Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s Europe-related headaches. A rebellion had already begun within Major’s party against legislation designed to bring into force the Maastricht Treaty – an agreement that formalised European coordination in the areas of security, justice and foreign and home affairs, and created the EU.

The legislation was eventually, and torturously, passed by the House of Commons on 23 July 1993 and the treaty went into effect on 1 November of that year. But not before several showdowns between the prime minister and the rebels – including a rebel-orchestrated defeat of Major’s government over the legislation just a day before it was eventually passed.

The bill’s passage on a Friday did little to heal the battle wounds. That weekend, Major, who had previously had a reputation for being a “nice guy”, was famously caught on video tape referring to the Eurosceptics in his own cabinet as “bastards”.

The flag of the European Union. (Image Credit: MPD01605 / Commons).

Conservative in-fighting, the rise of UKIP and a decline in public support

With the UK now part of a European Union, it was more entangled in Europe that ever before. And, as we now well know, Conservative in-fighting over the issue didn’t go away.

Over the next 25 years, the debate over Britain’s membership of the EU would plague the Conservatives, with the European question coming to define much of the party’s internal politics.

Ironically, given the events of the 1970s and 80s, Labour became mostly united on the issue – though Euroscepticism among its more radical left-wing ranks persisted. The successive governments of Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair aimed for closer integration with the EU.

That all changed once the Conservative David Cameron was prime minister, however. After initially rejecting calls from those on the right of his party to hold an in-out referendum on the EU, the centrist politician soon changed his mind. In 2013 Cameron announced that his government would hold such a poll if re-elected in 2015. And, of course, he followed through on that promise.

Cameron, who campaigned to remain in the EU, announces his resignation after the 2016 referendum returned a “Leave” vote. (Image Credit: Tom Evans / Commons (Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.)).

But Conservative right-wingers weren’t the only Eurosceptic powers at play during this time. Running in parallel to events on the mainstream political stage were single-issue parties and candidates campaigning for Britain’s exit from the EU.

The most famous and effective of these was undoubtedly the UK Independence Party, or UKIP, which managed to grow from an inconsequential political player in the 1990s to take first place in the 2014 European Parliament election with a 27.5% share of the vote.

The party’s electoral success can be largely attributed to the former leadership of Nigel Farage who widened UKIP’s policy platform and successfully exploited and encouraged anti-immigrant sentiment, creating an inextricable link between unemployment, immigration and Britain’s membership of the EU in the minds of many.

Indeed, many believe that Cameron may not have promised a referendum had the pressure from UKIP not been so great.

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Alongside all of this, anti-European views were growing amongst the general public. According to the British Social Attitudes surveys, Euroscepticism increased from 38% in 1993 to 65% in 2015 – though it must be noted that Euroscepticism does not necessarily equate to wanting to leave the EU.

This potent cocktail of factors – and many more besides – helped not only lead Britain into the referendum in 2016 but also to the UK’s exit from the EU and it’s new relationship, which took effect on 1 January 2021.

(Main Image Credit: Christoph Scholz, CC).

A brief history of Brexit

The previous PM Cameron promised an in-or-out of the EU referendum back in 2013 if the Conservatives won the General Election, despite the fact that EU matters were considered rather unimportant by voters at that time.

He promised this would happen by 2017 – an arbitrary date set to appease his party, not with any attention what was happening in the EU (where reform would happen by 2019 at the earliest).

A dog whistle campaign and the inherent unfairness of First Past the Post won Cameron the election in 2015, and suddenly he had to deliver on the referendum he never wanted but gave his party to keep them happy.

Rather than realise the timetable he had set was foolish, or examine who had the right to vote in the referendum, in haste Cameron went for the referendum as swiftly as he could – after a measly thin deal negotiated with the EU that was promptly forgotten in the referendum campaign, and conceding to his headbanger backbenchers on the matter of the who could vote (keeping away many Brits overseas and all non-British EU citizens in the UK).

Cameron wondered out loud which side he would back in the referendum, in the end backing Remain, but having sounded so bitter and negative about the EU throughout his premiership he came across as nowhere near as compelling as the Remain campaign had hoped.

Having never expected to win an election outright, and then having called the referendum in haste, the Leave side had an organisational head start over the Remain side, and the latter mounted and uninspiring and mediocre campaign in which Labour politicians did not feature due to the tensions at the top of that party.

The British Government meanwhile had prepared no plan for how Brexit were to actually work or be enacted, meaning legal cases were required after the referendum to even determine how Article 50 could be triggered. There was no agreed approach as to what sort of Brexit (from Soft to Hard) the UK would want to aim for.

The Bill to make the referendum happen made it clear the vote was consultative and not binding, but contained nothing about turnout or any sort of special majority, or anything to do with majorities in the constituent parts of the UK.

The UK having voted to leave meant Cameron resigned (having said he would not) and he did not trigger Article 50 on 24th June (having said he would).

Leaders of the Leave side ran for the hills, mostly withdrawing from front line politics, and abandoned all the pledges they had made in the referendum as hastily as they could. £350 million for… no, do not even go there.

The Tory Party then coronated its new leader and she made it clear she would not go for an early election, and the newspapers backed her, despite having done the opposite when a similar circumstance came to pass years previously when Brown took over from Blair.

Having been in favour of Remain herself, May became a hard Brexiteer and appointed three more fanatics as the Ministers for Foreign Affairs (Johnson), Brexit (Davis) and Trade (Fox).

Having been anti-immigration in her previous role as Home Secretary, May made immigration control central to her Brexit plans and disregarded the economic consequences of Brexit. This was outlined in a populist right wing speech at Tory Party Conference in autumn 2016.

Meanwhile the government battled every way it could to avoid any Brexit debate in Parliament, fighting in the courts to try to prevent Parliament having a vote on the Brexit trigger, and then when Gina Miller won her case and Parliament did have to vote, a huge majority of MPs all just gave May what she wanted anyway and did not amend the Bill. So much for Parliamentary Sovereignty.

Initially May said no Brexit plan was needed, but then Labour made her commit to one. The result was a White Paper so vague and full of waffle it was barely worth the paper it was written on. A Lancaster House speech by May was lauded by the media but also – 6 months after the Brexit referendum – was thin on detail.

Davis’s Brexit Ministry struggled to recruit staff and in March 2017 he appeared before a select committee in Parliament to answer Brexit questions and was chronically badly prepared.

May set herself the deadline of the end of March to trigger Article 50 to begin the Brexit process. Like Cameron’s timetable errors before her this was an arbitrary date set to keep her backbenchers happy.

Three weeks after sending the Article 50 letter, and still no better prepared as to how to approach Brexit, Theresa May changed her mind and said she did indeed want to call an election – on 8th June, thereby knocking 6 further weeks out of the already tight Brexit timetable.

Having stated that the election was to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations, the Conservative Manifesto gave very little detail on Brexit, and May kept on saying she had a Brexit plan but no plan is to be found. This is supposed to be the Brexit election but no-one is really talking about Brexit.

Meanwhile the Labour Party, fearing its core voter base, has committed itself to a Brexit variant almost as hard line as May’s.

Brexit: a disaster decades in the making

O ne week ago, against the advice of its political establishment, Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. Within a few days, that establishment was in the process of a full-scale implosion: the country is effectively without government or opposition, shorn of leadership, bereft of direction. As the pound crashed and markets tanked, the chancellor of the exchequer went missing for three days while Boris Johnson, the most prominent member of the Leave campaign, spent the weekend not sketching out a plan for the nation’s future, but playing cricket and writing his column for the Telegraph. Having asserted its right to sovereignty, the country can now find nobody to actually run it.

Meanwhile, the very prize won in the referendum – to leave the EU – remains unclaimed. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the process for leaving the EU. Once invoked, a country has two years to negotiate the terms of the divorce. But no one will touch it. Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the losing campaign to remain in the EU, announced his resignation within hours of the result, insisting that his successor should be the one to pull the trigger. Johnson, who is favoured to replace Cameron, protests that there is “no need for haste”. During the campaign, our departure from the EU had many proud and pushy parents. In victory it is an orphan.

Cutting the figure not so much of a failed state as a state intent on failure, the nation’s credit rating was downgraded, its currency devalued and its stock market depleted. On polling day the Leave campaign reminded us that we were the fifth-largest economy in the world and could look after ourselves. By the following afternoon our currency was sufficiently decimated that we had fallen to sixth, behind France.

In the ensuing panic, some politicians argued that we could simply ignore the referendum result: David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, suggested it was “advisory and non-binding”, and urged parliament to call another referendum, in order to avert economic catastrophe. A huge number of people petitioned the government to do the same – while the eminent barrister Geoffrey Robertson insisted a second referendum was not necessary to overturn the result: parliament could just vote it down. “Our democracy does not allow, much less require, decision-making by referendum,” he wrote. “Democracy has never meant the tyranny of the simple majority, much less the tyranny of the mob.”

It was argued that we could not leave the final word on such momentous decisions to ordinary voters: they didn’t know what they really wanted, or they had been tricked into wanting something that would hurt them, or they were too ignorant to make informed choices, or maybe they quite simply wanted the wrong thing. A significant portion of the country was in the mood for one big do-over – a mood enhanced by considerable class contempt and the unmistakable urge to cancel the universal franchise for “stupid people” incapable of making the right decisions.

Everything had changed – we had decided to end a more than 40-year relationship with our continental partners and the consequences were far-reaching. In Scotland independence was once again in play in Westminster, resignations from the shadow cabinet came by the hour in the City, billions were wiped off by the day. Indeed, one of the few things that didn’t budge was the very issue that had prompted it all: our membership of the European Union. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know how and when we will actually leave it. We are simultaneously in freefall and at a standstill, in a moment of intense and collective disorientation. We don’t know what is happening and it is happening very fast.

But the only thing worse than the result and its consequences is the poisonous atmosphere that made it possible. The standard of our political discourse has fallen more precipitously than the pound and cannot be revived as easily. This did not happen overnight, and the sorry conduct of the referendum campaign was only the latest indication of the decrepit state of our politics: dominated by shameless appeals to fear, as though hope were a currency barely worth trading in, the British public had no such thing as a better nature, and a brighter future held no appeal. Xenophobia – no longer closeted, parsed or packaged, but naked, bold and brazen – was given free rein. A week before the referendum, an MP was murdered in the street. When the man accused of killing her was asked his name in court he said: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

On the day after the referendum, many Britons woke up with the feeling – some for better, some for worse – that they were suddenly living in a different country. But it is not a different country: what brought us here has been brewing for a very long time.

The thing people often forget about Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf is that in the end, there really was a wolf. Indeed, the story wouldn’t have its moral if the wolf didn’t show up and ravage the shepherd boy’s flock. Lying has consequences that last far longer than individual acts of deception: it ruins the liar’s ability to convince people when it really matters.

The source of the mistrust between the establishment and the country isn’t difficult to fathom. Next week the Chilcot inquiry will publish its findings into the Iraq war. After Iraq, we faced an economic crisis that few experts saw coming until it was too late. Then followed austerity now the experts said this was precisely the wrong response to the crisis, but it happened anyway.

Boris Johnson the day after the EU referendum vote, which his leave campaign won. Photograph: Reuters

When leaders choose the facts that suit them, ignore the facts that don’t and, in the absence of suitable facts, simply make things up, people don’t stop believing in facts – they stop believing in leaders. They do so not because they are over-emotional, under-educated, bigoted or hard-headed, but because trust has been eroded to such a point that the message has been so tainted by the messenger as to render it worthless.

This was the wolf we were warned about. It is now mauling our political culture and savaging our economic wellbeing. We were warned of it by leaders in whom we had no confidence. So we all chose the facts we liked, and we all suffered. The wolf does not discriminate. As Aesop reminds us at the end of the fable: “Nobody believes a liar, even when he’s telling the truth.”

This distrust is both mutual and longstanding, prompting two clear trends in British electoral politics. The first is a slump in turnout. In 1950, 84% of Britons voted in the general election by last year it was 66%. The decline has not been uniform, but the general trajectory has been consistent. Between 1945 and 1997 turnout never went below 70% since 2001 it has never reached 70%.

The second is a fracturing in political allegiance. For most of the postwar period, British electoral politics was effectively a duopoly. In 1951, 97% of votes were cast either for Conservatives or Labour. By last year, the combined total was 67%. Fewer people want to vote, and fewer voters want the two major parties. With a first-past-the-post system, designed to ensure that one of those parties wins a majority, our governments now preside with diminished legitimacy over a splintered political landscape. Cameron’s Tories were elected last year with only 24% of the eligible vote. In 1950, Winston Churchill was defeated even though 38% of eligible voters backed him.

These trends had similar consequences for the tactics of the two major parties. Under Cameron, the Conservatives, who had lost two prime ministers to the question of Europe, were able to abandon the most nativist elements of their base in order to pursue votes in the centre, rebranding themselves as the sensible party of British modernity. No longer “the nasty party”, the Conservative leadership embraced gay marriage, aggressively sought non-white spokespeople, and took a more moderate line on Europe than its members felt comfortable with.

Labour could also reposition itself, in the knowledge that it could keep winning elections even as it kept losing voters. Those who voted for Brexit tended to be English, white, poor, less educated and old. With the exception of the elderly, these have traditionally been Labour’s base. But the party has been out of touch with them for some time. The New Labour project made the party’s appeal both broader and shallower: there was a sharp pivot rightward, made with the conscious calculation that its core supporters had nowhere else to go.

The coalition of metropolitan liberals, city-dwellers, ethnic minorities, union members, working-class northerners and most of Scotland slowly began to fray. Poverty went down and inequality went up. Appeals to class politics gave way to more aspirational messaging. While covering the 2001 election, I recall the indifference that met Tony Blair on the campaign trail. He would appear in front of small, curious crowds, and then wave over their heads into the middle distance for the cameras. They voted for him – the alternative was William Hague running around in front of a pound sign – but they were not remotely engaged or inspired by him or his party.

In areas that Labour once had a stranglehold on, its vote slumped. Blair took his third victory in 2005 with only 9.5 million votes – fewer than Neil Kinnock managed when he lost to Margaret Thatcher in 1987. As long as the economy was doing well, a significant proportion of voters just stayed home – and there was no way to tell how soft the remaining support was until it was tested. Now those tests have come: in Scotland from the SNP, and in England and Wales from Ukip.

It may seem a minor matter in the wake of this referendum to say that our political parties are failing in their historic mission, but we would not have arrived here were they not doing so. The party set up by trade unions to represent the interests of workers in parliament no longer commands the allegiance of those people. True, almost two-thirds of Labour voters did vote remain – but an overwhelming number of the working-class, the poor, and the left-behind put their faith in leave. Meanwhile, the party of capital and nation has presided over a painful blow to the City and the Union. Neither party is fit for purpose.

The leave campaign did not invent racism. The deployment of bigotry to suit electoral ends has a longstanding tradition in this country, which is often denounced even by those who have done exactly that. Neglect, both benign and malign, and indulgence, both covert and overt, left those prejudices open for opportunists to exploit for their own ends. This was one such opportunity.

Liberal commentators have come to automatically identify poorer Britons with an ingrained loathing of foreigners, but in fact the British working class has a distinguished history of anti-racism: from the Lancashire mill workers boycotting cotton picked by slaves in the American Confederacy to the battle against fascism at Cable Street, and the campaigns of the Anti-Nazi League and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. In the last year, thousands of ordinary people have made their way to Calais with supplies for refugees.

Like all classes in Britain, however, it also has a bleak history of racism, which can make the journey from the street to the ballot box. Sometimes this has taken the form of open calls for white racial solidarity against non-whites. Sometimes it has taken organised forms, in the shape of Oswald Mosley’s New Party, the National Front, or the British National Party. And at other times, it has been neatly folded into the fabric of mainstream politics.

The National Front rose to prominence in the 1970s, but saw its advance blunted by Margaret Thatcher, who promised to be tough on immigration, and expressed sympathy for people who “are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture”. Then came the BNP, which triggered a brief period of intense scrutiny and concern when it won a council seat in the Isle of Dogs, east London, in 1993. By 2003, the party had 17 councillors, and by 2008, more than 50 around the country. By increments, the BNP became a constant, if contested, fact of British municipal life. In the 2009 European elections, the party’s leader, Nick Griffin, won one of two BNP seats in the European parliament. That same year, Griffin found himself on BBC1’s Question Time. The rise of Ukip would later suck up all the oxygen on the far right, and Griffin would disappear, only to be replaced by Nigel Farage. More blokey and garrulous, less abrasive and boorish, Farage narrowed the focus to Europe and, by doing so, widened the far right’s appeal.

The divisions such movements sow have always posed a particular challenge for Labour, since the party’s core base of support is vulnerable to social and economic change to start with. That is why nativist parties always play best during times of recession, when resources are scarce and people are looking for someone to blame. In a letter from 1870 that, with a few words changed, could have been written any time in the past few years, Karl Marx vividly described this dynamic: “Every industrial and commercial centre in England possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life … This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes.”

The Tories have consciously fanned these flames. In 2005, when the Tory leader Michael Howard ran his whole general election campaign on immigration, with the insidious slogan “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”, the party’s MP in Castle Point, on the Essex coast, asked in one leaflet: “What bit of ‘send them back’ don’t you understand Mr Blair?” During that election, I drove from the least diverse constituency in the country – St Ives in Cornwall – to the most, which was in east London. In Cornwall, the Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew George, said the racism he was hearing was a particular worry. “It’s the one resonance issue that’s favouring the Tories,” he told me. “On the doorstep people aren’t saying: ‘I’m voting Conservative because of their tax spending plans.’ People have been saying, ‘We only came down here to get away from the blacks,’ and there was no self-consciousness about saying it out loud. I’m very disturbed about it. Maybe they’re not playing the race card. But they’re playing the immigration card and that’s right next to the race card in the deck.”

Theresa May gives a speech in 2005 during the general election campaign, with the Conservative party’s slogan to the fore. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

This week, David Cameron condemned “despicable” xenophobic attacks in the wake of the EU referendum. But just last month he was galvanising the Tory faithful in London with claims that the Labour mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, was in cahoots with an imam who, Cameron alleged, supported Isis. That claim was so utterly false that if the prime minister did not enjoy parliamentary privilege against charges of defamation, he would have had to pay damages to the imam, as the defence secretary Michael Fallon was forced to do when he repeated the remarks outside the House of Commons.

With a few notable exceptions, Labour’s response has been less crass but no less calculated. Labour tends to condemn outright bigotry before clothing it in the cosy blanket of understanding and concern for the bigot. It protests and then it panders. It routinely points out that racism is bad, but is rarely brave enough to make the case for why anti-racism is good. This leads to the worst of all worlds. Racism and xenophobia are condemned but never challenged, which leaves those who hold such views feeling silenced and ignored, but never engaged. This, in turn, leaves them prey to hucksters like Farage, who can claim to speak for them.

After his party lost a seat in Smethwick, West Midlands, in 1964 to a notoriously racist campaign, the Labour minister Richard Crossman concluded that: “It has been quite clear that immigration can be the greatest potential vote-loser for the Labour party.” This view was shared by Tony Blair’s government. Blair chose the white cliffs of Dover for a 2005 election speech on refugees and immigration – when it was time for the photo call, there wasn’t a black face to be seen. In 2006, as the Iraq war descended into chaos, home secretary John Reid turned his focus on the enemy within – intolerant Muslims. “This is Britain,” Reid told the party conference. “We will go where we please, we will discuss what we like, and we will never be browbeaten by bullies. That’s what it means to be British.” A few years later Jack Straw lectured Muslim women on what to wear when they came to his surgery.

The effect was not to blunt the rise of organised racism but to embolden it, making certain views acceptable and respectable. It was embedded in our political language and institutions and then left to fester.

We have yet to see a general election in which race and immigration are the defining issues. If that were the case, one would expect to see Ukip do far better that it has previously. At an election, people vote for parties that they believe, on balance, identify with their concerns on a range of issues. But this was not a general election. It was a referendum on membership in an unloved institution that was the source of mass migration on a scale that the government had not anticipated, and that most Britons were not prepared for.

Although much has been made, since the referendum, of results showing that areas with little migration were most opposed to it, we should not underestimate the jolt that accompanied the effects of free movement within a newly enlarged European Union. I left Britain for America in 2003, before it opened its borders to the east. After a few trips back in 2005, I simply stopped assuming that white people in London spoke English any more. The transformative potential was clear even then: states may import workers, but it is people who actually come. My parents came from Barbados in the 1960s, planning to stay for a few years, make some money and head back “home”. Instead they had kids and stayed. I saw no reason why many of these new immigrants wouldn’t do the same – and I wondered how the language we used to talk about race and migration would change now that there were so many new arrivals who were white but not British.

Tony Blair in Dover where he gave a speech on immigration in 2005. Photograph: Dan Chung/The Guardian

In the past, pollsters and politicians had elided the two issues – considering “race/immigration” as a single area of concern. That was never true or accurate, but the new situation made it even more clear that we needed to have a sophisticated conversation about migration and race. Not the conversation that politicians always claim we are avoiding, about the dreadful impact of migration – but a conversation about our needs as an ageing nation, about our economic and foreign policies, about how immigrants contribute far more in taxes than they take in benefits, and about the fact that there are considerably fewer of them than British people think. (For instance, in a recent Ipsos Mori poll, on average, respondents thought that EU immigrants accounted for 15% of the population – the true figure is about 5%.) But that is not all: we needed to have a conversation about the resources that communities require to accommodate an influx of new arrivals – school places, hospital beds, housing – and about who was responsible for cutting the budgets that used to provide these things.

But that is not the conversation we are having. It is not even the conversation we have never had. It is the conversation our leaders have desperately and wilfully avoided. For decades, the issue of race (the colour of people) and immigration (the movement of people) have been neatly interwoven, as though they are one and the same thing – as though “British” people are not also black and black people are not British.

It has been profitable for politicians – and not only Nigel Farage – to sow confusion about the difference between migration from the EU and elsewhere, or the distinction between economic migrants and asylum seekers. The argument that this was a vote about “economic” issues – since the hated European migrants were not brown or black – is belied by the deliberate commingling of every type of foreigner. It was not an accident that the “Breaking Point” poster, revealed by Farage on the morning of Jo Cox’s murder, showed Syrian refugees coming into Slovenia, an image with almost no relevance to the issue on the ballot. Xenophobia and racism are easily blended, and they become an especially potent toxin among a population that no longer trusts its own leaders.

To describe this as a working-class revolt against the elites is to give the elites more credit than they are due. With both sides run by Old Etonians and former Bullingdon boys, the elites were going to win no matter who you voted for.

It would be more accurate to say that the results reflected an ambivalence toward the elites on both sides. When leaders who you believe don’t care about you – and can do nothing for you – tell you what is in your best interest, it’s reasonable to ignore them. People who were told they would lose out in the recession to come felt they didn’t have much to lose people who were told that belonging to the EU gave them certain rights and advantages did not see they had any value. It would be as much of a mistake to assume these people consciously voted for Faragism as to think they could never be tempted by it.

On this point, those who voted remain should, at the very least, concede that had we voted to stay in, the country would not be having this conversation. If remain had won, we would already have returned to pretending that everything was carrying on just fine. Those people who have been forgotten would have stayed forgotten those communities that have been abandoned would have stayed invisible to all but those who live in them. To insist that they will now suffer most ignores the fact that unless something had changed, they were going to suffer anyway. Those on the remain side who felt they didn’t recognise their own country when they woke up on Friday morning must spare a thought for the pensioner in Redcar or Wolverhampton who has been waking up every morning for the last 30 years, watching factories close and businesses move while the council cuts back services and foreigners arrive, wondering where their world has gone to.

Many of those who voted leave will undoubtedly feel that they have had their say after years of being ignored. But they are beginning to discover that they have been lied to. Even when it feels that there is nothing left to lose, it turns out that things can always get worse. And even when it feels like nobody tells you the truth, it turns out that some factions of the elite can and will do more damage to your life than others.

One of the defining illusions of the populist rightwing agenda is that it possesses a unique ability to rally the poor on the basis of race and nation – but even here, it cannot deliver on its own terms. The leaders of the leave campaign have been in a furious retreat since their moment of triumph: they have walked back promises to control immigration, to quit the single market, and to “give our NHS the £350m the EU takes every week”. Leaving the EU does not diminish the power of the multinationals that moved manufacturing jobs overseas, or the financiers whose recklessness led to the closure of libraries and the shrinking of disability benefits. We have not opted out of global capitalism. Something will now be done about the free movement of labour – but capital will still have the run of the place.

The anger that has been unleashed is not being directed at the elites. Instead it is flying every which way to alarming effect: black people are being abused in the street a Polish community centre has been defaced eastern European children are being taunted in schools. Liberals are blaming the poor, Cameron is blaming Boris, the Daily Express is blaming the EU (“Brexit Vote is EU’s Fault: Ignoring Britain was Big Mistake”), business is blaming Cameron and Boris, Scotland is blaming England, London is blaming the rest of England, children are blaming their parents, and the EU is blaming all of us.

The Vote Leave battle bus in Portsmouth. Leaders of the victorious campaign have already stepped back from the pledge to spend £350 million on the NHS. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

On 31 December 1999, as American television viewers watched around-the-clock coverage of the arriving millennium, one time zone at a time, the ABC newsreader Peter Jennings offered an appraisal of recent British history as he watched the fireworks light up the sky over the Thames. “This country has been through so much,” he said. “In 1900, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, Britain ruled over one-fifth of the world’s population. But for all this fantastic show, Britain’s possessions have dwindled to … Well, Hong Kong has gone now and, well … The Falklands are still British.”

Ever since the Suez crisis, Britain has struggled with its place in the modern world. Nostalgic about its former glory, anxious about its diminished state, forgetful about its former crimes, bumptious about its future role, it has lived on its reputation as an elderly aristocrat might live on his trust fund – frugally and pompously, with a great sense of entitlement and precious little self-awareness.

New Year’s marks UK’s final Brexit split from EU

LONDON (AP) — Like a separated couple still living together, Britain and the European Union spent 2020 wrangling and wondering whether they can remain friends.

On Thursday, the U.K. is finally moving out. At 11 p.m. London time — midnight at EU headquarters in Brussels — Britain will economically and practically leave the 27-nation bloc, 11 months after its formal political departure.

After more than four years of Brexit political drama, the day itself is something of an anticlimax. U.K. lockdown measures to curb the coronavirus have curtailed mass gatherings to celebrate or mourn the moment, though Parliament’s huge Big Ben bell will sound the hour as it prepares to ring in the New Year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who won power vowing to “Get Brexit Done” — said the day “marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally.”

“This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it,” he said after Britain’s Parliament approved a U.K.-EU trade deal overnight, the final formal hurdle on the U.K. side before departure.

It has been 4 1/2 years since Britain voted in a referendum to leave the bloc it had joined in 1973. The U.K. left the EU’s political structures on Jan. 31 2020, but the repercussions of that decision have yet to be felt, since the U.K.’s economic relationship with the bloc remained unchanged during an 11-month transition period that ends Thursday.

After that, Britain will leave the EU’s vast single market and customs union — the biggest single economic change the country has experienced since World War II.

A free trade agreement sealed on Christmas Eve after months of tense negotiations will ensure Britain and the 27-nation EU can continue to trade in goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the 660 billion pounds ($894 billion) in annual trade between the two sides, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it.

But firms face sheaves of new paperwork and expenses. Traders are struggling to digest the new rules imposed by a 1,200-page deal that was agreed just a week before the changes take place.

The English Channel port of Dover and the Eurotunnel passenger and freight route are bracing for delays, though the pandemic and the holiday weekend mean there will be less cross-Channel traffic than usual. The vital supply route was snarled for days after France closed its border to U.K. truckers for 48 hours last week in response to a fast-spreading variant of the virus identified in England.

The British government insisted that “the border systems and infrastructure we need are in place, and we are ready for the U.K.’s new start.”

But freight companies are holding their breath. U.K. haulage firm Youngs Transportation is suspending services to the EU from Monday until Jan. 11 “to let things settle.”

“We figure it gives the country a week or so to get used to all of these new systems in and out and we can have a look and hopefully resolve any issues in advance of actually sending our trucks,” said Youngs director Rob Hollyman.

The services sector, which makes up 80% of Britain’s economy, doesn’t even know what the rules will be for business with the EU in 2021 — many of the details have yet to be hammered out. Months and years of further discussion and argument over everything from fair competition to fish quotas lie ahead as Britain a nd the EU settle in to their new relationship as friends, neighbors and rivals.

Hundreds of millions of individuals in Britain and the bloc also face changes to their daily lives. After Thursday, Britons and EU citizens lose the automatic right to live and work in the other’s territory. From now on they will have to follow immigration rules and obtain work visas. Tourists won’t need visas for short trips, but new headaches — from travel insurance to pet paperwork — still loom for Britons visiting the continent.

For some in Britain, including the prime minister, it’s a moment of pride, a reclaiming of national independence from a vast Brussels bureaucracy.

Conservative lawmaker Bill Cash, who campaigned for Brexit for decades, said it was a “victory for democracy and sovereignty.”

That’s not a view widely shared across the Channel. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed regret over the split.

“The United Kingdom remains our neighbor but also our friend and ally,” Macron said in the president’s traditional New Year’s address. “This choice of leaving Europe, this Brexit, was the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises,.”

France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, said the promises made by Brexiteers — “a sort of total freedom, a lack of restrictions, of influence — I think will not happen.”

Many in Britain felt apprehension about a leap into the unknown that is taking place during a pandemic that has upended life around the world.

“I feel very sad that we’re leaving,” said Jen Pearcy-Edwards, a filmmaker in London. “I think that COVID has overshadowed everything that is going on. But I think the other thing that has happened is that people feel a bigger sense of community, and I think that makes it even sadder that we’re breaking up our community a bit, by leaving our neighbors in Europe.

“I’m hopeful that we find other ways to rebuild ties,” she said.

John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed to this story.

Left: The City of London financial district, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, pictured on Nov. 5, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

Read Theresa May's Speech Laying Out the U.K's Plan for Brexit

In a major speech on Tuesday, the British Prime Minister Theresa May outlined a 12-point plan on what relationship Britain will seek to have with the E.U. once it leaves the bloc. Here’s the text of her speech, as delivered at London&rsquos Lancaster House on Jan. 17

A little over six months ago, the British people voted for change.

They voted to shape a brighter future for our country.

They voted to leave the European Union and embrace the world.

And they did so with their eyes open: accepting that the road ahead will be uncertain at times, but believing that it leads towards a brighter future for their children – and their grandchildren too.

And it is the job of this Government to deliver it. That means more than negotiating our new relationship with the EU. It means taking the opportunity of this great moment of national change to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be.

My answer is clear. I want this United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I want us to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country – a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. I want us to be a truly Global Britain &ndash the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that gets out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.

I want Britain to be what we have the potential, talent and ambition to be. A great, global trading nation that is respected around the world and strong, confident and united at home.

That is why this Government has a Plan for Britain. One that gets us the right deal abroad but also ensures we get a better deal for ordinary working people at home.

It&rsquos why that plan sets out how we will use this moment of change to build a stronger economy and a fairer society by embracing genuine economic and social reform.

Why our new Modern Industrial Strategy is being developed, to ensure every nation and area of the United Kingdom can make the most of the opportunities ahead. Why we will go further to reform our schools to ensure every child has the knowledge and the skills they need to thrive in post-Brexit Britain. Why as we continue to bring the deficit down, we will take a balanced approach by investing in our economic infrastructure – because it can transform the growth potential of our economy, and improve the quality of people&rsquos lives across the whole country.

It&rsquos why we will put the preservation of our precious Union at the heart of everything we do. Because it is only by coming together as one great union of nations and people that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead.

The result of the referendum was not a decision to turn inward and retreat from the world.

Because Britain&rsquos history and culture is profoundly internationalist.

We are a European country &ndash and proud of our shared European heritage &ndash but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe to the wider world. That is why we are one of the most racially diverse countries in Europe, one of the most multicultural members of the European Union, and why &ndash whether we are talking about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, countries in Africa or those that are closer to home in Europe &ndash so many of us have close friends and relatives from across the world.

Instinctively, we want to travel to, study in, trade with countries not just in Europe but beyond the borders of our continent. Even now as we prepare to leave the EU, we are planning for the next biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2018 &ndash a reminder of our unique and proud global relationships.

A message from Britain to the rest of Europe

And it is important to recognise this fact. June the 23rd was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world. It was the moment we chose to build a truly Global Britain.

I know that this &ndash and the other reasons Britain took such a decision &ndash is not always well understood among our friends and allies in Europe. And I know many fear that this might herald the beginning of a greater unravelling of the EU.

But let me be clear: I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interests of Britain. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain&rsquos national interest that the EU should succeed. And that is why I hope in the months and years ahead we will all reflect on the lessons of Britain&rsquos decision to leave.

So let me take this opportunity to set out the reasons for our decision and to address the people of Europe directly.

It&rsquos not simply because our history and culture is profoundly internationalist, important though that is. Many in Britain have always felt that the United Kingdom&rsquos place in the European Union came at the expense of our global ties, and of a bolder embrace of free trade with the wider world.

There are other important reasons too.

Our political traditions are different. Unlike other European countries, we have no written constitution, but the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty is the basis of our unwritten constitutional settlement. We have only a recent history of devolved governance &ndash though it has rapidly embedded itself – and we have little history of coalition government. The public expect to be able to hold their governments to account very directly, and as a result supranational institutions as strong as those created by the European Union sit very uneasily in relation to our political history and way of life.

And, while I know Britain might at times have been seen as an awkward member state, the European Union has struggled to deal with the diversity of its member countries and their interests. It bends towards uniformity, not flexibility. David Cameron&rsquos negotiation was a valiant final attempt to make it work for Britain – and I want to thank all those elsewhere in Europe who helped him reach an agreement – but the blunt truth, as we know, is that there was not enough flexibility on many important matters for a majority of British voters.

Now I do not believe that these things apply uniquely to Britain. Britain is not the only member state where there is a strong attachment to accountable and democratic government, such a strong internationalist mindset, or a belief that diversity within Europe should be celebrated. And so I believe there is a lesson in Brexit not just for Britain but, if it wants to succeed, for the EU itself.

Because our continent&rsquos great strength has always been its diversity. And there are two ways of dealing with different interests. You can respond by trying to hold things together by force, tightening a vice-like grip that ends up crushing into tiny pieces the very things you want to protect. Or you can respect difference, cherish it even, and reform the EU so that it deals better with the wonderful diversity of its member states.

So to our friends across Europe, let me say this.

Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. It was no attempt to do harm to the EU itself or to any of its remaining member states. We do not want to turn the clock back to the days when Europe was less peaceful, less secure and less able to trade freely. It was a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.

We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods and services, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.

You will still be welcome in this country as we hope our citizens will be welcome in yours. At a time when together we face a serious threat from our enemies, Britain&rsquos unique intelligence capabilities will continue to help to keep people in Europe safe from terrorism. And at a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain&rsquos servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty.

We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.

And that is why we seek a new and equal partnership &ndash between an independent, self-governing, Global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU.

Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.

No, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. And my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.

Objectives and Ambitions

So today I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead. 12 objectives that amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

And as we negotiate that partnership, we will be driven by some simple principles: we will provide as much certainty and clarity as we can at every stage. And we will take this opportunity to make Britain stronger, to make Britain fairer, and to build a more Global Britain too.

Certainty and clarity

The first objective is crucial. We will provide certainty wherever we can.

We are about to enter a negotiation. That means there will be give and take. There will have to be compromises. It will require imagination on both sides. And not everybody will be able to know everything at every stage.

But I recognise how important it is to provide business, the public sector, and everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process.

So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.

That is why last year we acted quickly to give clarity about farm payments and university funding.

And it is why, as we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the &ldquoacquis&rdquo &ndash the body of existing EU law &ndash into British law.

This will give the country maximum certainty as we leave the EU. The same rules and laws will apply on the day after Brexit as they did before. And it will be for the British Parliament to decide on any changes to that law after full scrutiny and proper Parliamentary debate.

And when it comes to Parliament, there is one other way in which I would like to provide certainty. I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.

Our second guiding principle is to build a stronger Britain.

2. Control of our own laws

That means taking control of our own affairs, as those who voted in their millions to leave the European Union demanded we must.

So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.

Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.

Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.

A stronger Britain demands that we do something else – strengthen the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom.

At this momentous time, it is more important than ever that we face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us as a people, and our shared interest in the UK being an open, successful trading nation in the future.

And I hope that same spirit of unity will apply in Northern Ireland in particular over the coming months in the National Assembly elections, and the main parties there will work together to re-establish a partnership government as soon as possible.

Foreign affairs are of course the responsibility of the UK Government, and in dealing with them we act in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom. As Prime Minister, I take that responsibility seriously.

I have also been determined from the start that the devolved administrations should be fully engaged in this process.

That is why the Government has set up a Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, so ministers from each of the UK&rsquos devolved administrations can contribute to the process of planning for our departure from the European Union.

We have already received a paper from the Scottish Government, and look forward to receiving a paper from the Welsh Government shortly. Both papers will be considered as part of this important process. We won&rsquot agree on everything, but I look forward to working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Part of that will mean working very carefully to ensure that &ndash as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain &ndash the right powers are returned to Westminster, and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As we do so, our guiding principle must be to ensure that – as we leave the European Union – no new barriers to living and doing business within our own Union are created,

That means maintaining the necessary common standards and frameworks for our own domestic market, empowering the UK as an open, trading nation to strike the best trade deals around the world, and protecting the common resources of our islands.

And as we do this, I should equally be clear that no decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be removed from them.

4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland

We cannot forget that, as we leave, the United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and maintaining that Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland will be an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead.

There has been a Common Travel Area between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for many years. Indeed, it was formed before either of our two countries were members of the European Union. And the family ties and bonds of affection that unite our two countries mean that there will always be a special relationship between us.

So we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom&rsquos immigration system.

Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can.

The third principle is to build a fairer Britain. That means ensuring it is fair to everyone who lives and works in this country.

And that is why we will ensure we can control immigration to Britain from Europe.

We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain &ndash indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country&rsquos most distinctive assets &ndash but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.

So we will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU.

Because while controlled immigration can bring great benefits &ndash filling skills shortages, delivering public services, making British businesses the world-beaters they often are &ndash when the numbers get too high, public support for the system falters.

In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of net migration in Britain, and that sheer volume has put pressure on public services, like schools, stretched our infrastructure, especially housing, and put a downward pressure on wages for working class people. As Home Secretary for six years, I know that you cannot control immigration overall when there is free movement to Britain from Europe.

Britain is an open and tolerant country. We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends. But the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.

6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU

Fairness demands that we deal with another issue as soon as possible too. We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can.

I have told other EU leaders that we could give people the certainty they want straight away, and reach such a deal now.

Many of them favour such an agreement – one or two others do not – but I want everyone to know that it remains an important priority for Britain &ndash and for many other member states &ndash to resolve this challenge as soon as possible. Because it is the right and fair thing to do.

And a fairer Britain is a country that protects and enhances the rights people have at work.

That is why, as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers rights are fully protected and maintained.

Indeed, under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers&rsquo set out in European legislation, we will build on them. Because under this Conservative Government, we will make sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing labour market &ndash and that the voices of workers are heard by the boards of publicly-listed companies for the first time.

A Truly Global Britain

But the great prize for this country &ndash the opportunity ahead &ndash is to use this moment to build a truly Global Britain. A country that reaches out to old friends and new allies. A great, global, trading nation. And one of the firmest advocates for free trade anywhere in the world.

8. Free trade with European markets

That starts with our close friends and neighbours in Europe. So as a priority, we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU&rsquos member states. It should give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets &ndash and let European businesses do the same in Britain.

But I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the EU&rsquos Single Market.

European leaders have said many times that membership means accepting the &ldquofour freedoms&rdquo of goods, capital, services and people. And being out of the EU but a member of the Single Market would mean complying with the EU&rsquos rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country.

It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all.

And that is why both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the Single Market.

So we do not seek membership of the Single Market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

That Agreement may take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas &ndash on the export of cars and lorries for example, or the freedom to provide financial services across national borders &ndash as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when Britain and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years.

But I respect the position taken by European leaders who have been clear about their position, just as I am clear about mine. So an important part of the new strategic partnership we seek with the EU will be the pursuit of the greatest possible access to the Single Market, on a fully reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. There may be some specific European programmes in which we might want to participate. If so, and this will be for us to decide, it is reasonable that we should make an appropriate contribution. But the principle is clear: the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end.

9. New trade agreements with other countries

But it is not just trade with the EU we should be interested in. A Global Britain must be free to strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union too.

Because important though our trade with the EU is and will remain, it is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.

Since joining the EU, trade as a percentage of GDP has broadly stagnated in the UK. That is why it is time for Britain to get out into the world and rediscover its role as a great, global, trading nation.

This is such a priority for me that when I became Prime Minister I established, for the first time, a Department for International Trade, led by Liam Fox.

We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe. Countries including China, Brazil, and the Gulf States have already expressed their interest in striking trade deals with us. We have started discussions on future trade ties with countries like Australia, New Zealand and India. And President Elect Trump has said Britain is not &ldquoat the back of the queue&rdquo for a trade deal with the United States, the world&rsquos biggest economy, but front of the line.

I know my emphasis on striking trade agreements with countries outside Europe has led to questions about whether Britain seeks to remain a member of the EU&rsquos Customs Union. And it is true that full Customs Union membership prevents us from negotiating our own comprehensive trade deals.

Now, I want Britain to be able to negotiate its own trade agreements. But I also want tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be as frictionless as possible.

That means I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff. These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries. But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.

Whether that means we must reach a completely new customs agreement, become an associate member of the Customs Union in some way, or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position. I have an open mind on how we do it. It is not the means that matter, but the ends.

And those ends are clear: I want to remove as many barriers to trade as possible. And I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organisation, meaning we can reach new trade agreements not just with the European Union but with old friends and new allies from outside Europe too.

10. The best place for science and innovation

A Global Britain must also be a country that looks to the future. That means being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation.

One of our great strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities, backed up by some of the world&rsquos best universities. And we have a proud history of leading and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation.

So we will also welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.

From space exploration to clean energy to medical technologies, Britain will remain at the forefront of collective endeavours to better understand, and make better, the world in which we live.

11. Cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism

And a Global Britain will continue to cooperate with its European partners in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs.

All of us in Europe face the challenge of cross-border crime, a deadly terrorist threat, and the dangers presented by hostile states. All of us share interests and values in common, values we want to see projected around the world.

With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to cooperate with one another less, but to work together more. I therefore want our future relationship with the European Union to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies.

I am proud of the role Britain has played and will continue to play in promoting Europe&rsquos security. Britain has led Europe on the measures needed to keep our continent secure &ndash whether it is implementing sanctions against Russia following its action in Crimea, working for peace and stability in the Balkans, or securing Europe&rsquos external border. We will continue to work closely with our European allies in foreign and defence policy even as we leave the EU itself.

12. A smooth, orderly Brexit

These are our objectives for the negotiation ahead &ndash objectives that will help to realise our ambition of shaping that stronger, fairer, Global Britain that we want to see.

They are the basis for a new, strong, constructive partnership with the European Union &ndash a partnership of friends and allies, of interests and values. A partnership for a strong EU and a strong UK.

But there is one further objective we are setting. For as I have said before &ndash it is in no one&rsquos interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU.

By this, I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status, in which we find ourselves stuck forever in some kind of permanent political purgatory. That would not be good for Britain, but nor do I believe it would be good for the EU.

Instead, I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.

This might be about our immigration controls, customs systems or the way in which we cooperate on criminal justice matters. Or it might be about the future legal and regulatory framework for financial services. For each issue, the time we need to phase-in the new arrangements may differ. Some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer. And the interim arrangements we rely upon are likely to be a matter of negotiation.

But the purpose is clear: we will work to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge, and we will do everything we can to phase in the new arrangements we require as Britain and the EU move towards our new partnership.

The Right Deal for Britain

So, these are the objectives we have set. Certainty wherever possible. Control of our own laws. Strengthening the United Kingdom. Maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland. Control of immigration. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU. Enhancing rights for workers. Free trade with European markets. New trade agreements with other countries. A leading role in science and innovation. Cooperation on crime, terrorism and foreign affairs. And a phased approach, delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit.

This is the framework of a deal that will herald a new partnership between the UK and the EU.

It is a comprehensive and carefully considered plan that focuses on the ends, not just the means – with its eyes fixed firmly on the future, and on the kind of country we will be once we leave.

It reflects the hard work of many in this room today who have worked tirelessly to bring it together and to prepare this country for the negotiation ahead.

And it will, I know, be debated and discussed at length. That is only right. But those who urge us to reveal more &ndash such as the blow-by-blow details of our negotiating strategy, the areas in which we might compromise, the places where we think there are potential trade-offs &ndash will not be acting in the national interest.

Because this is not a game or a time for opposition for opposition&rsquos sake. It is a crucial and sensitive negotiation that will define the interests and the success of our country for many years to come. And it is vital that we maintain our discipline.

That is why I have said before &ndash and will continue to say &ndash that every stray word and every hyped up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain. Our opposite numbers in the European Commission know it, which is why they are keeping their discipline. And the ministers in this Government know it too, which is why we will also maintain ours.

So however frustrating some people find it, the Government will not be pressured into saying more than I believe it is in our national interest to say. Because it is not my job to fill column inches with daily updates, but to get the right deal for Britain. And that is what I intend to do.

A new partnership between Britain and Europe

I am confident that a deal – and a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU &ndash can be achieved.

This is firstly because, having held conversations with almost every leader from every single EU member state having spent time talking to the senior figures from the European institutions, including President Tusk, President Juncker, and President Schulz and after my Cabinet colleagues David Davis, Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson have done the same with their interlocutors, I am confident that the vast majority want a positive relationship between the UK and the EU after Brexit. And I am confident that the objectives I am setting out today are consistent with the needs of the EU and its Member States.

That is why our objectives include a proposed Free Trade Agreement between Britain and the European Union, and explicitly rule out membership of the EU&rsquos Single Market. Because when the EU&rsquos leaders say they believe the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible, we respect that position. When the 27 Member States say they want to continue their journey inside the European Union, we not only respect that fact but support it.

Because we do not want to undermine the Single Market, and we do not want to undermine the European Union. We want the EU to be a success and we want its remaining member states to prosper. And of course we want the same for Britain.

And the second reason I believe it is possible to reach a good deal is that the kind of agreement I have described today is the economically rational thing that both Britain and the EU should aim for. Because trade is not a zero sum game: more of it makes us all more prosperous. Free trade between Britain and the European Union means more trade, and more trade means more jobs and more wealth creation. The erection of new barriers to trade, meanwhile, means the reverse: less trade, fewer jobs, lower growth.

The third and final reason I believe we can come to the right agreement is that cooperation between Britain and the EU is needed not just when it comes to trade but when it comes to our security too.

Britain and France are Europe&rsquos only two nuclear powers. We are the only two European countries with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Britain&rsquos armed forces are a crucial part of Europe&rsquos collective defence.

And our intelligence capabilities &ndash unique in Europe &ndash have already saved countless lives in very many terrorist plots that have been thwarted in countries across our continent. After Brexit, Britain wants to be a good friend and neighbour in every way, and that includes defending the safety and security of all of our citizens.

So I believe the framework I have outlined today is in Britain&rsquos interests. It is in Europe&rsquos interests. And it is in the interests of the wider world.

But I must be clear. Britain wants to remain a good friend and neighbour to Europe. Yet I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.

That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe. And it would not be the act of a friend.

Britain would not &ndash indeed we could not &ndash accept such an approach. And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise &ndash while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached &ndash I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.

Because we would still be able to trade with Europe. We would be free to strike trade deals across the world. And we would have the freedom to set the competitive tax rates and embrace the policies that would attract the world&rsquos best companies and biggest investors to Britain. And &ndash if we were excluded from accessing the Single Market &ndash we would be free to change the basis of Britain&rsquos economic model.

But for the EU, it would mean new barriers to trade with one of the biggest economies in the world. It would jeopardise investments in Britain by EU companies worth more than half a trillion pounds. It would mean a loss of access for European firms to the financial services of the City of London. It would risk exports from the EU to Britain worth around £290 billion every year. And it would disrupt the sophisticated and integrated supply chains upon which many EU companies rely.

Important sectors of the EU economy would also suffer. We are a crucial &ndash profitable &ndash export market for Europe&rsquos automotive industry, as well as sectors including energy, food and drink, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture. These sectors employ millions of people around Europe. And I do not believe that the EU&rsquos leaders will seriously tell German exporters, French farmers, Spanish fishermen, the young unemployed of the Eurozone, and millions of others, that they want to make them poorer, just to punish Britain and make a political point.

For all these reasons &ndash and because of our shared values and the spirit of goodwill that exists on both sides &ndash I am confident that we will follow a better path. I am confident that a positive agreement can be reached.

It is right that the Government should prepare for every eventuality – but to do so in the knowledge that a constructive and optimistic approach to the negotiations to come is in the best interests of Europe and the best interests of Britain.

We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success.

Because we are a great, global nation with so much to offer Europe and so much to offer the world.

One of the world&rsquos largest and strongest economies. With the finest intelligence services, the bravest armed forces, the most effective hard and soft power, and friendships, partnerships and alliances in every continent.

And another thing that&rsquos important. The essential ingredient of our success. The strength and support of 65 million people willing us to make it happen.

Because after all the division and discord, the country is coming together.

The referendum was divisive at times. And those divisions have taken time to heal.

But one of the reasons that Britain&rsquos democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation, the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens, and the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together.

And that is what we are seeing today. Business isn&rsquot calling to reverse the result, but planning to make a success of it. The House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly for us to get on with it. And the overwhelming majority of people &ndash however they voted &ndash want us to get on with it too.

So that is what we will do.

Not merely forming a new partnership with Europe, but building a stronger, fairer, more Global Britain too.

And let that be the legacy of our time. The prize towards which we work. The destination at which we arrive once the negotiation is done.

And let us do it not for ourselves, but for those who follow. For the country&rsquos children and grandchildren too.

So that when future generations look back at this time, they will judge us not only by the decision that we made, but by what we made of that decision.

In Northern Ireland, Brexit is waking old demons.

Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, has the country’s only land border with the European Union — the politically sensitive 310-mile frontier with Ireland.

Thousands died in decades of sectarian strife there before a peace process in the 1990s, and both sides in the Brexit talks made it a priority to avoid reimposing border checks. They struck a deal that the region would keep following many European rules, so trucks could cross the Irish border freely, with new paperwork for goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The changes have prompted British companies to limit distribution there. Britain has unilaterally delayed some checks, triggering legal action from Brussels, and says it may suspend more, arguing that the arrangements are not sustainable. E.U. leaders say Britain must abide by what it agreed to.

The situation has contributed to a rise in sectarian tension, with outbreaks of rioting among communities that favor remaining part of the United Kingdom. Further violence is feared.

Troubled times

While the U.S. and the U.K. might have a lot in common, Trump’s inauguration as president heralded a new uncertain era for the “special relationship,” although the British government was quick to congratulate Trump on his victory and pledged to work with him.

Prime Minister Theresa May alluded to the relationship, saying she hoped the two countries would "strong and close partners on trade, security and defense.”

But Trump has since ruffled the feathers of both British politicians and the general public with a range of controversial comments on women, immigrants, Mexicans and Muslims. Indeed, his controversial remarks and policies have made it awkward for the U.K. to even host the former businessman this week.

In fact, such was the opposition to Trump’s upcoming three-day visit, from Thursday evening until Sunday, that an initial invitation to the U.K. for a state visit — where the head of state Queen Elizabeth II would host the president in a visit full of pomp and pageantry — was downgraded to a “working visit” amid concerns over likely widespread protests.

As many as 1.8 million Britons signed a petition in 2017 protesting against the then-planned state visit. Despite the downgrade, U.K.-wide demonstrations against Trump are still planned, with an expected 50,000 people likely to gather in London on Friday for a “Stop Trump” protest.

The itinerary for the three-day visit appears to be designed to keep Trump as far away as possible from the capital to avoid any embarrassment by the protests.

Permission has been granted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, , to allow a 20-foot-tall balloon depicting Trump as a baby to be flown over the capital. The campaigners who paid for the balloon have said it represents Trump’s character as an "angry baby with a fragile ego and tiny hands," but it has drawn criticism for being disrespectful.

Digby Jones, former director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told CNBC on Wednesday he thought it was “disgusting” that the Trump baby balloon was being allowed.

“He’s our biggest trading partner, he’s democratically elected, he is our biggest inward investor and more Americans go to work every day working for a company headquartered in Britain than any other country on Earth. And on that basis, we should actually afford him the courtesy which he singularly fails to afford anyone on the planet and we should behave completely impeccably,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“I think, personally, that it’s disgusting that they’re going to put up an inflatable baby up in a nappy. Would we like it if he put an inflatable Queen up over the White House with a nappy on? We’d hate it,” Jones said, although he accepted the right to protest as “a pillar of a free society.”

“I’m not going to say we should ban it, I just think we are behaving wrongly if we lower ourselves to the sort of level he swings every day… the point is the American people elected this man and we should be dealing with him.”

Recommended Reading

Britain, Post-Brexit

The People of the Soil Have Won

The Cost of Trump After Trump

But there will be other casualties too, of course. Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned. It seems improbable that Jeremy Corbyn, the hapless old radical who bumbled into the leadership of the Labour Party, can long outlast him. In the opening hour of trading on Friday morning, 120 billion pounds of stock market value evaporated. EU nationals working in the United Kingdom must wonder how long they can stay, and so must British retirees now enjoying the sun of Spain, Italy, and southern France. Will London’s overheated property market come off the boil? What’s the future of the vast industry that finances and insures the commerce of the European continent?

For Americans, there are other questions. The U.S. government has long favored Britain-in-Europe, both because the U.K.-EU single market speeds U.S. business on the continent, and because U.S. policymakers have long worried about the statism and anti-Americanism likely to prevail in an EU from which Britain is absent. “I think Europe is strengthened by Britain's participation. I think our overall Western world economic strength is likewise improved and strengthened by Britain's participation.” So said President Gerald Ford on the eve of the 1975 British referendum on entry into the EU, and his words could have been repeated by any or all of his successors.

But here’s a domestic question for American leaders and thinkers.

The force that turned Britain away from the European Union was the greatest mass migration since perhaps the Anglo-Saxon invasion. 630,000 foreign nationals settled in Britain in the single year 2015. Britain’s population has grown from 57 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2015, despite a native birth rate that’s now below replacement. On Britain’s present course, the population would top 70 million within another decade, half of that growth immigration-driven.

British population growth is not generally perceived to benefit British-born people. Migration stresses schools, hospitals, and above all, housing. The median house price in London already amounts to 12 times the median local salary. Rich migrants outbid British buyers for the best properties poor migrants are willing to crowd more densely into a dwelling than British-born people are accustomed to tolerating.

This migration has been driven both by British membership in the European Union and by Britain’s own policy: The flow of immigration to the U.K. is almost exactly evenly divided between EU and non-EU immigration. And more is to come, from both sources: Much of the huge surge of Middle Eastern and North African migrants to continental Europe since 2013 seems certain to arrive in Britain as Prime Minister David Cameron likes to point out, Britain has created more jobs since 2010 than all the rest of the EU combined.

The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within—and even crowded out of—their own country: More than 200,000 British-born people leave the U.K. every year for brighter futures abroad, in Australia above all, the United States in second place.

Now the American question:

By uncanny coincidence, EU referendum day in the U.K. coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that halts President Obama’s program of executive amnesty for young illegal immigrants and their parents, an estimated 5 million people. American policymakers—like their U.K. and EU counterparts—have taken for granted that an open global economy implies (and even requires) the mass migration of people. Yet this same mass migration is generating populist, nativist reactions that threaten that same open economy: The anti-EU vote in the U.K., the Donald Trump campaign for president in the United States.

Is it possible that leaders and elites had it all wrong? If they’re to save the open global economy, maybe they need to protect their populations better against globalization’s most unwelcome consequences—of which mass migration is the very least welcome of them all?


2015 United Kingdom general election Edit

In its election manifesto for the United Kingdom general election in May 2015, the Conservative Party promised to call an EU referendum by the end of 2017. [17] [18]

The referendum, held on 23 June 2016, resulted in a 51.9% majority vote for leaving the European Union. [19]

According to the European parliament, "For the moment, it appears that the two sides have different views on the sequencing and scope of the negotiations, and notably the cross-over between the withdrawal agreement and the structure of future relations, and this divergence itself may be one of the first major challenges to overcome." [20]

UK negotiation Edit

The Department for Exiting the European Union was originally responsible for overseeing the negotiations to leave the EU and for establishing the future relationship between the UK and EU. This role was later taken over by Olly Robbins, and later Lord David Frost, who reported to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office.

Original withdrawal agreement (November 2018) negotiation Edit

    , Prime Minister of the United Kingdom , Europe Advisor to the Prime Minister and chief negotiator , Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union until 8 July 2018. , Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from 9 July 2018 until 15 November 2018. , Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union from 16 November 2018.
  • Sir Tim Barrow, UK Permanent Representative to the EU

Revised withdrawal agreement (October 2019) negotiation Edit

    , Prime Minister of the United Kingdom , Europe Advisor to the Prime Minister and chief negotiator
  • Stephen Barclay, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
  • Sir Tim Barrow, UK Permanent Representative to the EU

Article 50 invocation Edit

The United Kingdom's proposed principles were set out in the Article 50 notification:

  • Constructive discussions
  • Citizens first
  • Comprehensive agreement
  • Minimise disruption
  • Ireland/Northern Ireland position
  • Technical talks on detailed policy
  • Work together on European values [21]

The Prime Minister's formal letter of notification was delivered in Brussels on 29 March 2017. [22] It included withdrawal from the European Atomic Energy Community. The letter recognised that consequences for the UK of leaving the EU included loss of influence over rules that affect the European economy, and UK companies trading within the EU aligning with rules agreed by institutions of which the UK would no longer be part. It proposed agreeing to seven principles for the conduct of the withdrawal negotiation. These are for:

  1. engaging with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation.
  2. aiming to strike an early agreement about the rights of the many EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, and British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union.
  3. working towards securing a comprehensive agreement, taking in both economic and security cooperation, and agreeing the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.
  4. working together to minimise disruption and giving as much certainty as possible, letting people and businesses in the UK and the EU benefit from implementation periods to adjust in an orderly way to new arrangements.
  5. in particular, paying attention to the UK's unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
  6. beginning technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, including a Free Trade Agreement covering sectors crucial to our linked economies such as financial services and network industries.
  7. continuing to work together to advance and protect our shared liberal, democratic values of Europe, to ensure that Europe remains able to lead in the world, projecting its values and defending itself from security threats.

Role of the countries of the United Kingdom Edit

The constitutional lawyer and retired German Supreme Court judge Udo Di Fabio has stated his opinion that separate negotiations with the EU institutions by Scotland or Northern Ireland would constitute a violation of the Lisbon Treaty, according to which the integrity of a member country is explicitly put under protection. [23]

UK general election Edit

The start of negotiations was delayed until after the United Kingdom general election, which took place on 8 June 2017. [24] Antonio Tajani, speaking on 20 April, said the early election should bring stability to the UK, which would have been good for negotiations. [25] In the event, the election led to a hung parliament which has reduced the Prime Minister's room for manoeuvre in particular in respect of the Irish border question due to her dependency on a confidence and supply agreement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

EU27 negotiation Edit

    , Chief Negotiator , Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament and Chair of the Brexit Steering Group [26] , President of the European Council , President of the European Commission , Taoiseach (October 2019 renegotiation)

Following the United Kingdom's notification under Article 50, draft guidelines for the negotiations were sent to EU delegations of the 27 other member states (the EU27). The draft, prepared by the President of the European Council, states that the guidelines define the framework for negotiations under Article 50 and set out the overall positions and principles the Union will pursue throughout the negotiation. It states that in the negotiations the Union's overall objective will be to preserve its interests, those of its member states, its citizens and its businesses, and that, in the best interest of both sides, the Union will be constructive throughout and strive to find an agreement. The draft sets out two core principles:

  1. The European Council will continue to base itself on the principles set out in the statement of Heads of State or Government and of the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission on 29 June 2016. It reiterates its wish to have the United Kingdom as a close partner in the future. It further reiterates that any agreement with the United Kingdom will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations, and ensure a level-playing field. Preserving the integrity of the European Single Market excludes participation based on a sector-by-sector approach. A non-member of the Union that does not live up to the same obligations as the members cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits. In this context, the European Council welcomes the recognition by the British Government that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and there can be no "cherry picking".
  2. Negotiations under Article 50 TEU (Treaty on European Union) will be conducted as a single package. In accordance with the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, individual items cannot be settled separately. The Union will approach the negotiations with unified positions, and will engage with the United Kingdom exclusively through the channels set out in these guidelines and in the negotiating directives. So as not to undercut the position of the Union, there will be no separate negotiations between individual member states and the United Kingdom on matters pertaining to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union." [27]

According to the European Parliament, the withdrawal agreement and any possible transitional arrangement(s) should enter into force "well before the elections to the European Parliament of May 2019", and the negotiations should focus on: [28]

  • The legal status of European Union citizens living or having lived in the United Kingdom and of United Kingdom citizens living or having lived in other member states, as well as other provisions concerning their rights
  • The settlement of financial obligations between the United Kingdom and the European Union
  • The European Union's external border
  • The clarification of the status of the United Kingdom's international commitments taken as a Member of the European Union, given that the European Union of 27 member states will be the legal successor of the European Union of 28 member states
  • Legal certainty for legal entities, including companies
  • The designation of the Court of Justice of the European Union as the competent authority for the interpretation and enforcement of the withdrawal agreement.

On 18 April 2017, a spokesman for Donald Tusk said "We expect to have the Brexit guidelines adopted by the European Council on 29 April and, following that, the Brexit negotiating directives ready on 22 May". [29] On 29 April, the EU27 unanimously endorsed the draft guidelines with no debate. [30]

In a speech to a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 22 March 2017, Barnier, as EU Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations, said the EU wanted to succeed by reaching a deal with the British, not against them. [31]

On 22 May the European Council, following the approval of the negotiating directives that the EU27 had adopted by strong qualified majority voting, [a] authorised the Commission to open Article 50 discussions with UK, with Michel Barnier appointed as the negotiator. It further confirmed that all agendas, EU position papers, Non-papers and EU text proposals would be released to the public and published on line. [32]

Intergovernmental organisation Edit

Intergovernmental organisations also involved in Brexit uncertainty considerations include the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA expects an agreement to avoid disruption. [33]

Phases Edit

  • Agreement on the so-called "divorce bill"
  • Agreement on rights of EU citizens living in the UK
  • Agreement on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic within the withdrawal phase. [30]

The second phase, covering the post-Brexit relationship between the EU27 and the UK, was to begin "as soon as the European Council decides that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase towards reaching a satisfactory agreement on the arrangements for an orderly withdrawal". [34] The earliest opportunity for this decision was 19 October 2017, at a summit of EU leaders. [35] although at that meeting it was agreed to start negotiations during the December meeting. [36]

Some effects of the British withdrawal could emerge before the UK and the EU27 conclude the Article 50 negotiation, as a result of policies existing when the negotiation begins, or some change of policy later. At the outset policy provisions binding on the EU include principles, aspirations and objectives set out in the TEU (Treaty on European Union) Preamble [37] and Articles, [38] of which

Article 3 mentions the promotion of "scientific and technological advance" in a context governed by "The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples", the Union's internal market, "work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress", and the requirement that "The Union shall pursue its objectives by appropriate means commensurate with the competences which are conferred upon it in the Treaties",

Article 4 mentions "competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States".

Policies mentioned in the Preamble include:

  • Achieve the strengthening and convergence of member states' economies and establish an economic and monetary union including a single and stable currency,
  • Promote economic and social progress for their peoples, taking into account the principle of sustainable development and within the context of the accomplishment of the internal market and of reinforced cohesion and environmental protection, and implement policies ensuring that advances in economic integration are accompanied by parallel progress in other fields,
  • Establish a citizenship common to nationals of their countries,
  • Implement a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy, thereby reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world,
  • Facilitate the free movement of persons, while ensuring the safety and security of their peoples, by establishing an area of freedom, security and justice.
  • Continue the process of creating an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

British policy was stated in a white paper published in February 2017: The United Kingdom's exit from and new partnership with the European Union. [39] In the white paper, British negotiating policy was set out as twelve guiding principles:

  1. Providing certainty and clarity, including a "Great Repeal Bill" to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert existing EU law into domestic law.
  2. Taking control of the British statute book and ending the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.
  3. Strengthening the Union of all parts of the Kingdom, and remaining fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.
  4. Working to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area whilst protecting the integrity of the British immigration system, and which protects the strong ties with Ireland.
  5. Controlling the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.
  6. Securing the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of British nationals in other member states.
  7. Protecting and enhancing existing workers' rights.
  8. Forging a new partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching free trade agreement, and seeking a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.
  9. Forging free trade relationships across the world.
  10. Remaining at the vanguard of science and innovation and seeking continued close collaboration with the UK's European partners.
  11. Continuing to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.
  12. Seeking a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK's and the EU's institutions and the remaining EU member states prepare for the new arrangements.

Pre-negotiation events Edit

On 28 June 2016, five days after the referendum, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel advised the German parliament of the agreed EU negotiation position: the UK could remain in the European Single Market (ESM) only if the UK accepted the ESM's four conditions (free movement of goods, capital, services and labour). While she expected the UK to remain an important NATO partner, the EU's priority was unity and self-preservation. She warned the UK not to delude itself. [40] The next day, Tusk confirmed that the UK would not be allowed access to the ESM unless they accepted its four freedoms. [41]

In contrast, at her October 2016 party conference, Prime Minister Theresa May emphasised that ending the jurisdiction of EU law and free movement from Europe were priorities. She wished "to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here", but not at the expense of losing sovereignty. [42] [43]

The European Commission said it would not start any negotiation before the UK formally invoked Article 50. [44]

In November 2016, May proposed that Britain and the other EU countries mutually guarantee the residency rights of the 3.3 million EU citizens in Britain and those of the 1.2 million British citizens living on the Continent, [b] in order to exclude their fates being bargained during Brexit negotiations. [45] Despite initial approval from a majority of EU states, May's proposal was blocked by European Council President Tusk and German Chancellor Merkel. [46]

In January 2017, the Prime Minister presented twelve negotiating objectives and confirmed that the British government would not seek permanent single market membership. [47] She also called for an end to ECJ jurisdiction, a new customs agreement excluding the common external tariff and the EU's common commercial policy, an end to free movement of people, co-operation in crime and terrorism, collaboration in areas of science and technology, engagement with devolved administrations, maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland, and preserving existing workers' rights. She also confirmed, "that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a meaningful vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force." [48] The European Parliament's lead negotiator Guy Verhofstadt responded that there could be no "cherry picking" by the UK in the talks. [49]

The statutory period for negotiation began on 29 March 2017, when the letter notifying withdrawal, authorised by the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and signed by the British Prime Minister, was handed to the President of the European Council. The letter called for a "deep and special relationship" between the UK and the EU, and warned that failure to reach an agreement would result in EU-UK trade under World Trade Organization terms, and a weakening of the UK's cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism. The letter suggested prioritising an early deal on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa. In the letter, the Prime Minister reasoned that, as the EU leaders did not wish "cherry picking" of the ESM, the UK would not seek to remain within the ESM. Instead, the UK would seek a free trade agreement with the EU. [50] In response, Merkel insisted that the EU would not discuss future cooperation without first settling the terms of the divorce, Verhofstadt referred to the letter as "blackmail" with regard to the point on security and terrorism, and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the UK's decision to quit the block was a "choice they will regret one day". [51]

A meeting at 10 Downing Street took place on 6 April 2017 between Theresa May and Donald Tusk to discuss "the way ahead on Brexit". [52] Another meeting took place in London on 20 April 2017, this time between Theresa May and Antonio Tajani to discuss the rights of EU citizens. [53] After the 20 April meeting, Antonio Tajani said the UK and EU27 timetables fitted well together, with a two-year exit deal negotiation followed by a three-year transition phase. [25] A 10 Downing Street meeting between Theresa May, Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker took place on 26 April to discuss the withdrawal process. May reiterated the UK's aim for a "deep and special partnership" after Brexit. [54]

On 29 April 2017, immediately after the first round of French presidential elections, the EU27 heads of state unanimously accepted, without further discussion, [55] negotiating guidelines prepared by the President of the European Council. [56] The guidelines take the view that Article 50 permits a two-phased negotiation, whereby the UK first needs to agree to a financial commitment and to lifelong benefits for EU citizens in Britain, before the EU27 will entertain negotiations on a future relationship. [57]

Nevertheless, a 4 March 2017 report of the European Union Committee of the House of Lords stated that, if there is no post-Brexit deal at the end of the two-year negotiating period, the UK could withdraw without payment. [58] Similarly, the Prime Minister insisted to EU Commission President Juncker that talks about the future UK-EU relationship should start early and that Britain did not owe any money to the EU under the current treaties. [59]

At 29 April summit, a meeting took place between Michel Barnier and both houses of the Irish parliament on 11 May, where Barnier assured members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann that Europe would "work with you to avoid a hard border". [60] Barnier went on to say that "the Irish border issue would be one of his three priorities in the negotiations", and that "there is always an answer". [61]

In May 2017, unflattering details of a four-way meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Minister David Davis, EU Commission President Juncker and his chief-of-staff Martin Selmayr were leaked to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, presumably by Martin Selmayr. [62] According to the leaked description, Juncker claimed that Theresa May was "living in another galaxy" when suggesting that British and EU migrant rights could be rapidly negotiated and agreed in the course of June 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel concurred the next day, saying there were "illusions" on the British side. [59] A few days later, Juncker disclaimed responsibility and called the leak a mistake, Der Spiegel magazine reported that Angela Merkel was annoyed with Juncker for the leak, while European Council President Tusk admonished participants to use discretion during the negotiations. [63] The background for German nervousness allegedly is the possibility that Britain may veto EU budget increases, which for example in the immediate term amount to four billion euros. A continued British veto would have far-reaching consequences and "will hurt us" according to German MEP Jens Geier. [64]

On 22 May 2017, the Council of the EU authorised its negotiators to start the Brexit talks and it adopted its negotiating directives. [65] The first day of talks took place on 19 June, where Davis and Barnier agreed to prioritise the question of residency rights, while Davis conceded that a discussion of the Northern Irish border would have to await future trade agreements. [66]

The British and European negotiators agreed that initial negotiations, relating especially to residency rights, would commence in June 2017 (immediately after the French presidential and parliamentary elections), and full negotiations, relating especially to trading agreements, could commence in October 2017 (immediately after the 2017 German federal election). [67] [68] [69]

EU negotiators have stated that an agreement must be reached between Britain and the EU by October 2018 in order to leave time for national parliaments to endorse Brexit. [70]

2017 Edit

The United Kingdom served the withdrawal notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on 29 March 2017. This started a two-year negotiation period but negotiations did not formally begin until 19 June 2017

2018 Edit

The British Government published several proposals during 2018, including the Chequers plan in July which sought to serve as the basis of the UK-EU trade deal, and a draft Withdrawal Agreement which the British Government and EU agreed in November 2018. The Chequers plan led to the resignation in July of David Davis as the UK's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and his replacement, Dominic Raab, resigned in November after the publication of the draft Withdrawal Agreement. He was replaced by Stephen Barclay. Negotiations over the Irish border question and the Irish backstop were frequently central to the debate around the Withdrawal Agreement.

2019 Edit

Approaching the end of the two-year negotiation period in March 2019, Theresa May and European leaders agreed a delay for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to approve the proposed Withdrawal Agreement. As it was rejected for the third time, a further extension (to 31 October 2019) was agreed in April 2019, with an option to terminate British membership earlier should the Withdrawal Agreement be passed by the British Parliament before then (which it did not). The consequence of this extension was that the UK (being still a member) had to take part in the 2019 European Parliament election in May 2019. In early October the British parliament approved delay until 31 January 2020.

On 17 October, Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker announced that they had finally reached agreement (subject to ratification) on a new Brexit withdrawal agreement on terms which both parties considered acceptable. [71] On 30 October 2019, the day named as "exit day" in British legislation was changed to 31 January 2020 at 11.00 p.m. [72] The Parliament of the UK and the European Parliament approved the agreement in January 2020 and Brexit finally happened at that time. [ citation needed ]

Two different legal approaches arose in determining the financial element of the Brexit withdrawal agreement and (at least initially) the UK and EU negotiators differed on which would be the more appropriate. [73] From Michel Barnier's point of view, the budget contributions that were agreed by 28 member states have to be paid by 28 member states, until the end of that budget period. [73] David Davis said the "UK wants to go through the Brexit bill line-by-line to work out what it owes the EU." [73] A leaving state is legally obliged to contribute to the EU budget beyond its membership period or to continue to honour the commitments it made during the (pre-Brexit) budget setting process. [73]

The leaders of France and Germany both stated that the UK would need to agree to terms regarding departure before discussing future relationships. This has been reinforced by EU27 guidelines issued to the remaining 27 countries. [74] The UK has signalled that it may consider paying the EU to attain preferential access to the European Single Market and may offer to pay liabilities on a moral and co-operative basis, even if not legally obliged to do so, to secure a preferential working relationship with the EU. [75]

In March 2017 the Bruegel think tank estimated the UK would need to pay at least €25.4 billion, but the method of calculation is debatable and their calculations using seven different methods produced estimates between €30 and €45 billion. [76]

Speaking on 20 April 2017, Antonio Tajani said it was too early to quantify the amount the UK would need to pay and that it was not a bill to leave the EU it was money needed for farmers and small businesses. [25]

House of Lords report Edit

HL Paper 125, 4 March 2017, European Union Committee 15th sessional report, Brexit and the EU budget , Chapter 3, Potential demands.[2]

A March 2017 House of Lords report acknowledges that the EU may claim for (1) part of the current budget (which runs from 2014 to 2020) post March 2019, because it was approved by the UK, (2) part of the EU future commitments which amount to €200 billion, and (3) a contribution if the UK is to continue with access to some EU programmes. [77] The report concluded that the UK had no legal obligation to make "exit" payments to the EU if there was no post Brexit deal. [78] [58]

Discussing financial and legal complexities involved in negotiating withdrawal, including settlement of outstanding financial liabilities and division of assets, the report mentions (paragraph 15) that the EU budget is funded by revenue drawn from various sources, governed by the EU's Own Resources Decision (ORD), which was made part of British law by the European Union (Finance) Act 2015. [79] The revenue includes contributions from import duties and VAT collected by member states. The report also mentions the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for controlling the annual expenditure.

Assets and liabilities Edit

The EU has considerable assets including buildings, equipment and financial instruments, and there is a potential claim by the UK for a portion of these assets. [76] Boris Johnson, the UK's Foreign Secretary, commenting on the Brexit "divorce bill" in May 2017, said the valuable EU assets the UK has paid for over the years should be properly valued, and that there were good arguments for including them in the negotiations. [80]

The Bank of England (BoE) has invested in the European Central Bank (ECB) amounting to 14.3374%, representing paid up capital of €55.5 million. The BoE does not participate in any profits (or losses) of the ECB. [81] The BoE has also made loans to the ECB. The ECB set up the European Financial Stability Facility in 2010, which has a borrowing facility of €440bn and in addition used a guarantee from the European Commission and the Budget of the European Union as collateral to borrow a further €60bn. The British withdrawal will affect the ECB.

The EU has a pension liability of €64 billion (which includes current and former British MEPs as well as current and former employees of the Institutions). [77]

The UK benefits from a rebate which reduces its contribution to the EU budget. The rebate is paid a year in arrears, accordingly the 2019 rebate would be payable in 2020. [77]

Position paper Edit

The EU drafted an 11-page position paper setting out the essential principles for a financial settlement and the methodology for calculating the obligation but does not estimate the final obligation. [47]

On 11 December 2017, Theresa May confirmed that the UK and the EU had agreed "the scope of commitments, and methods for valuations and adjustments to those values." [82]

The British Government's estimate of the financial settlement in March 2019 is £37.8 billion (€41.8 billion). [83]

Concerns have been raised by British citizens who live in other EU countries, and by citizens from those countries who live in the UK. In May 2017, Michel Barnier stated: "Currently around 3.2 million EU citizens work and live in the UK, and 1.2 million British citizens work and live in the EU." [84]

Issues include rights of movement, citizenship, abode, education, social support and medical treatment, and the payment of pensions and the extent to which these rights apply to family members. [85] Considerations for British citizens resident in an EU27 country include their rights to work or live in a different EU27 country. [86] Beyond the 27 EU countries, workers have certain freedom of movement rights to/from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

"Associate citizenship", suggested by EU27 negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, would allow British nationals to volunteer individually for EU citizenship, enabling them to continue to work and live on the continent. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, is not opposed to the idea. [87]

Antonio Tajani spoke after a meeting with Theresa May on 20 April 2017, saying "the issue of reciprocal EU citizen rights should be negotiated 'immediately' with a view to getting an agreement by the end of the year." [25] The European Commission published a position paper on "Essential Principles on Citizens' Rights" on 12 June 2017, proposing that current and future family members of European nationals in the UK would keep their rights to settle in their residence country at any time after Britain's withdrawal. [88] Speaking in advance of publication of the paper, David Davis described the demands as "ridiculously high". [89] The British government published their policy paper "Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU" on 26 June. [90] The policy paper proposed that EU citizens living in Britain will be required to apply for inclusion on a "settled status" register if they wish to remain in the country after Brexit. [91]

By the end of September 2017 progress had been made on several of the 60 points which became green, while 13 out of the 60 points remain red. Three points (points #14, #15, and #16 related to monitoring and CJEU) have to be addressed at governance level. Few points remain to be clarified (that is yellow). [92] On this basis European parliament will have to assess if sufficient progress has been made.

As of October 2018, British residents in the EU have not yet had their fates decided on. On 16 October 2018, just before departing for the EU27–UK summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to the German parliament, asked "How do we treat the 100,000 British citizens in Germany on the day after Brexit if there is no deal?", without supplying an answer. [93]

Implications Edit

The general rule for losing EU citizenship is that European citizenship is lost if member state nationality is lost, [94] but the automatic loss of EU citizenship as a result of a member state withdrawing from the EU is the subject of debate. [95] The situation of a person acquiring EU citizenship when the UK joined the EU in 1973 compared to a person born in the UK after 1973 and was therefore born into EU citizenship, may differ. It may be necessary for the ECJ to rule on these issues.

The ECJ ruled in a 2017 decision (Chávez-Vílchez and others) that the third-country (non-EEA) national parent of a child with EU nationality may be entitled to a ‘derivative right of residence’, even if the other parent were an EU national and were “able and willing to assume sole responsibility for the primary day-to-day care of the child”. [96] [97] The ability of the other (EU-national) parent to care for the child would, nevertheless, be a “relevant factor” in assessing whether the third-country national parent should be granted residence. The Chávez-Vílchez decision built upon the ECJ’s decision in Ruiz Zambrano, [98] [99] which gave a ‘derivative right of residence’ to a third-country national primary carer of a child with EU nationality. The Chávez-Vílchez decision may have consequential effects for British residents who have young children and wish to live in the EU27 territory post Brexit, but this remains to be tested.

Immigration and mobility Edit

Until the UK effectively withdraws from the EU in 2019 or at another agreed date, the current system of free movement of labour between the EU27 and the UK remains in place.

The report of the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee on The Government's negotiating objectives, published in April 2017, [100] proposed (paragraphs 20 and 123) that the future system for EU migration should meet the needs of different sectors of the British economy, including those employing scientists, bankers, vets, care workers, health service professionals and seasonal agriculture workers.

Theresa May, answering press questions on 5 April 2017, commented that the free movement of labour would not end in March 2019 an implementation period of possibly five years would give business and government time to adjust. [ citation needed ]

The UK currently charges an annual levy of up to £1,000 for each non-EU citizen employed within the UK. [101] Proposals are under consideration to increase this 'immigration skills charge' to £2,000 p.a. and to implement a similar levy on EU citizens employed in the UK. [102] [103]

According to an unconfirmed newspaper report, a leaked Home Office paper has a proposal that the UK will end the free movement of labour of low-skilled workers immediately after Brexit, focusing on highly skilled EU workers instead. [104] [105] The proposal would limit lower-skilled EU migrants' residency permits to a maximum of two years, and the implementation of a new immigration system ending the right to settle in Britain for most European migrants while placing tough restrictions on their rights to bring over family members. [104] Those in "high-skilled occupations" could be given permission to work in the UK for a period of three to five years. [104]

Immigration is one topic requiring partnership between EU and UK, as according to Theresa May, "Mass migration and terrorism are but two examples of the challenges to our shared European interests and values that we can only solve in partnership". [106]

In the context of Brexit, the question of migration might contain two subtopics: on one hand migrations between EU including the UK and third countries which might be dealt with at a local level and on the other hand migration between EU and the UK once the UK has become a third country which was discussed for the withdrawal agreement.

The concept of European Court of Justice competence creates complications. Some pro-Brexiteers believe the Court of Justice might be completely removed from the British landscape. Various other opinions consider that the Court of Justice or some equivalent should be able to rule on remaining issues after Brexit (for instance between a European and a British stakeholder), at least in respect of the TEU (Treaty on European Union), European Union citizens, or access to the European Single Market. [107]

After the 2017 negotiations, in February 2018 the European Commission Draft Withdrawal Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community [108] consider for instance that:

  • "The Court of Justice of the European Union shall continue to have jurisdiction for any proceedings brought before it by the United Kingdom or against the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period. That jurisdiction shall extend to all stages of proceedings, including appeal proceedings before the Court of Justice and proceedings before the General Court after a case has been referred back to it."
  • "The Court of Justice of the European Union shall continue to have jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings on requests from courts and tribunals of the United Kingdom referred to it before the end of the transition period."

Documents setting out how the Brexit will affect parts of the British economy were set up for the government, "the most comprehensive picture of our economy on this issue" containing "excruciating detail" according to Brexit Secretary David Davis. The ministers were reluctant to publish them but in November 2017, a vote in Parliament allowed lawmakers to read them under controlled conditions to avoid news leaks. They were released online on 21 December 2017 but lawmakers were unimpressed: "Most of this could be found on Wikipedia or with a quick Google search", said Labour's David Lammy, "these documents [were made] in a couple of weeks. They look like copy and paste essay crises." [109]

Trade Edit

Without a trade agreement in place, British trade with the EU would be governed by the World Trade Organization's Bali Package. This would lead to common tariffs and non-tariff barriers being imposed by the EU27 upon the UK's access to the European Single Market, because the Market is also a customs union. However, the UK would then have an opportunity to control immigration as well as develop its own trade regulations.

The UK was not permitted to hold trade talks until after Brexit was concluded, [110] however the UK can do preparatory work with other countries regarding the UK's future trading relationships this was not to the liking of some EU27 countries. [110] Before Britain leaves the EU, they may put trade agreements in place with non-EU countries. [111] [ better source needed ]

Only the EU can act in areas where it has exclusive competence, such as the customs union and common commercial policy. In those areas member states may not act independently. [112] The UK can still negotiate its own bilateral investment protection treaties subject to Commission authorisation. [112]

Strategic controls on military goods are primarily a member state competence. As a result, member states themselves negotiate multilateral or bilateral agreements on the strategic aspects of trade in defense goods. [112]

The EU27 wish to exclude the UK from sitting in on trade negotiations held by the EU during the period ending March 2019, seeing the UK as a competitor. Theresa May rejected this idea, saying "While we're members of the European Union we would expect our obligations but also our rights to be honoured in full." [110]

Regional foods Edit

The Geographical indications and traditional specialties in the European Union, known as protected designation of origin (PDO) is applied internationally via bilateral agreements. Without an agreement with the EU27, British producers of products such as the Cornish pasty, Scotch whisky and Jersey Royal potatoes are at risk of being copied.

Fisheries Edit

The EU27 have stated that British fish suppliers could lose tariff-free access to the continent unless EU countries have continued access to British waters after Brexit. [113]

Agriculture Edit

The Irish agricultural sector is heavily dependent on British markets for its exports.

Financial services Edit

Banks Edit

Investment banks may want to have new or expanded offices up and running inside the EU27 bloc before the UK's departure in March 2019, with Frankfurt and Dublin the possible favourites. [114] Ireland's investment arm, IDA Ireland, witnessed an increase in inquiries from London-based financial groups considering to open up on an office in Dublin by the end of 2016, mostly coming from North American companies. In May 2017, JP Morgan became the first major bank to officially choose Dublin to transfer some of its personnel and operations from its London office. [115]

Insurance Edit

Lloyd's of London has confirmed that it will open a subsidiary in Brussels, hoping to ensure continuation of continental business which currently generates 11% of its premiums. [116]

Asset management companies Edit

The situation may be different when it comes to the fund management industry, as British asset owners, notably British pension funds, often constitute an incommensurate share of total turnover for German, French, Dutch and other Continental European asset managers.

This imbalance could potentially give Britain some negotiating leverage e.g. power of retorsion in case the EU attempts to impose an abrupt cancellation of the mutually-binding obligations and advantages pertaining to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2004 ("fund passporting"). Research conducted by the World Pensions Council (WPC) shows that

"Assets owned by UK pension funds are more than eleven times bigger than those of all German and French pension funds put together [. ] If need be, at the first hint of threat to the City of London, Her Majesty's Government should be in a position to respond very forcefully." [117]

Stock exchanges Edit

The London Stock Exchange issued a warning over a proposal by the EU to allow euro-denominated transactions to be cleared only within the EU eurozone, claiming it would increase business costs by €100bn over five years and isolate the euro capital market. [118]

Security Edit

The letter of 29 March 2017 giving the UK's notice of intention to withdraw from the EU stated "In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened." [22] This was seen by some as a threat. [119] On 31 March, Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, confirmed that the "UK commitment to EU security is unconditional". [120]

The call by the United States to other members of NATO to increase their defence expenditure to the 2% of GDP level coincides in timing with Brexit. The UK is the second largest contributor to NATO defence, one of only five to meet the 2% level and one of only two EU members who have nuclear weapons. The possibility of a new Franco-German partnership to fill the vacuum left by Britain has been raised as a possibility and post Brexit an EU military headquarters, previously vetoed by the UK, may be created. [121] The UK is fully committed to NATO.

Academic research Edit

The British government's negotiating policy when the negotiating period started on 29 March 2017 included remaining at the vanguard of science and innovation, and seeking continued close collaboration with the UK's European partners.

In the Great Repeal Bill white paper published on 30 March 2017, the British government stated "The Government is committed to engaging with the Crown Dependencies, Gibraltar and the other Overseas Territories as we leave the EU." [122] : ch.5

Overseas territories Edit

Robin Walker MP, a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, is responsible for managing the relationship between the overseas territories and Parliament in their discussion with the EU27. [123]

Gibraltar Edit

Brexit raised issues around sovereignty for Gibraltar, the only British Overseas Territory in the EU. [124] Gibraltarians voted to stay in the European Union by 96%. [125] Spain claims sovereignty over Gibraltar however, in 2002 Gibraltarians voted 99% to keep British sovereignty.

The EU27 draft guidelines allow Spain a veto over any effect the Brexit agreement has as regards Gibraltar. The guidelines state: "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom." [126]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called for joint U.K.-Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar. [127] He publicly warned that Spain would "veto" Brexit deal over the issue of Gibraltar. [128] However, a bilateral agreement reached in December 2020 between the UK and Spain on Gibraltar was reached “without prejudice to the issue of sovereignty and jurisdiction”. The in-principle agreement reached will enable the participation of Gibraltar in the Schengen Area. [129]

Crown dependencies Edit

The Crown dependencies are not part of either the UK or the EU. They have a unique constitutional relationship both with the UK and, as encapsulated in Protocol 3 to the UK's Treaty of Accession, with the EU. [130] They have no voting rights in European or British referendums or elections and no international voice, the British government having the responsibility to act for the dependencies on foreign matters. Oliver Heald QC MP is responsible for managing the relationship between the Islands and Parliament in their discussion with the EU27. [131]

Most of the major political parties of the UK supported the idea of a transition period for applying temporary trade arrangements after the end of the UK's membership of the EU. [132]

According to a speech by Michel Barnier in September 2017, the EU would have to define the conditions for a transitional period, if the UK requests one, and the transition period would be part of the Article 50 withdrawal agreement. [133]

UK government's legal advice Edit

Following an unprecedented vote on 4 December 2018, MPs ruled that the British government was in contempt of parliament for refusing to provide to Parliament, the full legal advice it had been given on the effect of its proposed terms for withdrawal. [134] The key point within the advice covered the legal effect of the "backstop" agreement governing Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the rest of the UK, in regard to the customs border between the EU and UK, and its implications for the Good Friday agreement which had led to the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and specifically, whether the UK would be certain of being able to leave the EU in a practical sense, under the draft proposals.

The following day, the advice was published. The question asked was, "What is the legal effect of the UK agreeing to the Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement on Ireland and Northern Ireland in particular its effect in conjunction with Articles 5 and 184 of the main Withdrawal Agreement?" The advice given was that: [134]

The Protocol is binding on the UK and EU [para 3], and anticipates a final future resolution of the border and customs issues being reached [para 5,12,13]. But "the Protocol is intended to subsist even when negotiations have clearly broken down" [para 16] and "In conclusion, the current drafting of the Protocol . does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK lawfully to exit the UK wide customs union without a subsequent agreement. This remains the case even if parties are still negotiating many years later, and even if the parties believe that talks have clearly broken down and there is no prospect of a future relationship agreement." [para 30]

A No-deal Brexit would involve the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without any Free Trade Agreement and relying on the trading rules set by the World Trade Organization. [135] The British government has consistently said it will aim for the "best possible deal" but that "no deal is better than a bad deal". This position was restated in the Conservative Party manifesto for the 2017 general election. [136] In July 2017, Michel Barnier said that "a fair deal is better than no deal", because "In the case of Brexit, 'no deal' is a return to a distant past". [137]

In June 2017, a Parliamentary inquiry concluded that "the possibility of 'no deal' is real enough to justify planning for it. The Government has produced no evidence, either to this inquiry or in its White Paper, to indicate that it is giving the possibility of 'no deal' the level of consideration that it deserves, or is contemplating any serious contingency planning. This is all the more urgent if the Government is serious in its assertion that it will walk away from a 'bad' deal." [138]

In September 2017, the BBC reported that there was little evidence of British government preparations for a "No Deal" scenario: "our government is not behaving like it is really preparing for No Deal – and the EU27 can surely see it." [139]

While withdrawal negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union were in progress in 2017, Barnier, as the EU's chief negotiator, speaking in Rome to Committees of the Italian Parliament on 21 September, said a future trade deal with the United Kingdom is the trade deal which will be negotiated after sufficient progress has been made on the withdrawal deal. Barnier commented that the EU will want to negotiate a future trade deal with the United Kingdom, because trade with the United Kingdom will continue. [141] At the same time Barnier said "the future trade deal with the United Kingdom will be particular, as it will be less about building convergence, and more about controlling future divergence. This is key to establishing fair competition." [141]

The United Kingdom's then prime minister, in a speech at the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence on 22 September 2017, [142] proposed an economic partnership between the UK and the EU which respects both the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people. At the same time she re-affirmed that after the UK leaves the EU a period of implementation would be in their mutual interest, to be agreed under Article 50 for a strictly time-limited period. [106]

The European parliament voted a Brexit resolution (the European Parliament resolution of 14 March 2018) on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship (2018/2573(RSP)) with 544 MEP against 110 (with 51 abstentions). [143] The 14 page [144] document states that an association agreement between EU and UK could be an adequate framework for the future. This resolution proposes that the agreement address four domains: trade, interior security, foreign and defense policy collaboration, and thematic cooperation (for instance for research and innovation). [145] [146] The resolution also urges the UK to present a clear position on all outstanding issues pertaining to its orderly withdrawal. [144]

In December 2018, then Secretary for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd suggested that a Norway-plus model – the membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) – could be an alternative if Theresa May's Brexit deal is rejected. [140]

Beginning in March 2020, representatives of the UK and the EU commenced negotiations for a trade agreement to make trade easier than it would be without such a deal. The deal might cover (or eliminate) both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.

During the Brexit negotiations in 2017, the two sides agreed that trade negotiation could only start after the UK's withdrawal, because such negotiations could not happen when the UK still has a veto right within the EU. [57] For this and other reasons, a transition period after Brexit day was defined to allow those negotiations. This transition period started on the first February 2020, in accordance with the withdrawal agreement. The first deadline is the 31 December 2020, a deadline which can be extended for two years. [147] The British government has declared that it will not apply for any such extension. [148] In addition, it clarified the only kind of trade deal the UK is interested is in, if any, is a Canadian style trade deal, [149] as documented in Barnier's "staircase" slide. [150]

On 24 December 2020 the UK and the EU reached a settlement in principle on the future relationship between the two parties in the form of a trade deal that would enable both sides to continue trading in goods (but not services) with each other, free of tariffs and quotas. The agreement remains to be ratified but is planned to be applied provisionally in the meantime.

Modern Scotland

By the late 18th century, the issue of Scottish versus English identity had been largely subsumed by the countries’ shared conflicts with other members of the British Empire, including the American colonies and Ireland. Scotland’s textile industry thrived, sparking industrialization and urbanization, and Scots gained more power within the British government.

Scotland “joined England just at the time, or just before, England takes off with the Industrial Revolution,” says Curtice. Its inhabitants profited “disproportionately” from Britain’s imperialism and industry, and for at least 150 years or so, the country was a “well and truly signed up part of the British Empire.”

But the question of independence, or at the very least devolution of power, remained of interest to Scots. When Prime Minister William Gladstone, a Brit of Scottish descent, proposed the restoration of an Irish parliament “separate from but subordinate to Westminster” in 1886, his conception of “home rule” also took root in Scotland, which had won a measure of administrative devolution with the establishment of the Scottish Office the year prior.

Member of Parliament William Cowan introduced a bill aimed at creating a separate Scottish parliament in 1913. His impassioned opening statement offered a prescient glimpse of contemporary talking points, criticizing English MPs who “imagine themselves experts on Scottish affairs” and calling for Scottish control over legislation “for land, for the liquor trade, for education, for housing, for fisheries, for ecclesiastical affairs, for one-hundred-and-one matters of purely local concerns.”

The advent of World War I suspended discussions of home rule for both Scotland and Ireland, but in 1922, the Irish Free State managed to successfully break away from the U.K. after a bloody guerrilla war. According to Curtice, Britain’s economic dominance and status as an imperial powerhouse began to fade around the same time as the conflict’s denouement, limiting the benefits Scotland reaped as a member of the union.

In 1934, the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party joined together to form the Scottish National Party. Plagued by infighting and policy differences, the nationalist SNP nevertheless gained momentum during World War II, with politician Robert McIntyre winning the party’s first seat in Parliament during an April 1945 by-election. Following the war’s conclusion, McIntyre immediately lost his seat, and, in the words of Curtice, “Party politics went back to normal.”

Outside of several largely symbolic victories—including nationalists’ Christmas 1950 theft of the Scottish coronation Stone of Scone, housed in Westminster Abbey since 1296—the SNP’s growth stagnated in the decades that followed. With the discovery of oil off Scotland’s North Sea coast during the 1970s, however, the party’s message started to resonate with more voters, and in 1974, the SNP won 11 seats in Parliament.

The first meeting of the devolved Scottish parliament took place on May 12, 1999. (Colin via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Building on this success, nationalist politicians introduced a referendum designed to gauge support for a local Scottish Assembly. Though pro-devolution voters just edged out the competition, only 32.8 percent of the electorate turned out for the referendum, rendering the verdict null and void.

A 1997 devolution referendum proved more successful, with Scotland overwhelmingly voting in favor of a decentralized legislature the new governing body met in Edinburgh for the first time on May 12, 1999.

For those hoping to preserve the United Kingdom, says Curtice, devolution was “an attempt to stymie the demand for independence.” But for the SNP, devolution was simply a “stepping stone” on the path to a fully autonomous Scotland.

The SNP won the Scottish Parliament’s first majority government in 2011, paving the way for the 2014 independence referendum. Ultimately, 45 percent of Scots voted in favor of leaving the U.K., while 55 percent voted against.

Though many of the issues debated around the time of the 1707 Acts of Union are no longer relevant, Bowie says the events of the 18th century hold valuable insights for the current independence movement.

“The union comes out of a ten-year context,” she explains. “That longer-term context of the union of crowns not working very well applies, but it had gotten particularly bad in the last ten years before 1707, so it’s in response to quite short-term pressures.”

While the formation of the United Kingdom yielded “great fruitfulness” in many areas, including the development of a shared British identity, the historian adds, “There’s nothing immutable or inevitable about it.”

Says Bowie, “This is probably the fundamental moral. If it’s not inevitable, then that means it’s a construct. And for it to last, it has to work. […] Like any relationship that needs to be maintained and sustained, if it starts to break down, it can potentially be recovered, but effort has to be put into that.”

Watch the video: How Did Brexit Happen? History (January 2022).