Why Gordon Brown’s Brexit plan might be the best available option

picture.744.1437133902Following the government’s defeat in the meaningful vote on Tuesday, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has outlined a possible way forward for Brexit, which would involve a significant postponement of exit day and might also include a second referendum. Jim Gallagher explains why he thinks this might be the most sensible course of action.

With parliament paralysed, the country deeply divided, and trust in political institutions eroded by the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, it is easy to conclude that there is no way through the political and perhaps the economic chaos which faces the UK.

These problems feed off one another. The deadlock in parliament stokes up cynicism and polarises opinion in the country even more. Even if  Westminster compromise could somehow be cooked up, the lesson of Theresa May’s deal-making is that getting a sustainable compromise is almost impossible in the face of such deep divisions.

Voters could be forgiven for concluding that the British political system is fundamentally broken when it cannot deal with the main issue of the day. They will be right, unless we do something radically different, and something which addresses all (and not just one) of the issues. That is the attraction of the ideas put forward yesterday by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Continue reading

Does the Prime Minister have to trigger Brexit talks under Article 50 after a vote to leave the EU?

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In a previous blog post Alan Renwick has discussed how Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty could lock the UK into negotiations after a vote for Brexit on terms that tilt the balance of power away from the UK and make a second in/out referendum on an improved renegotiation package, of the type floated by Boris Johnson among others, impossible. But could these problems be got round by not using Article 50, as some Leave campaigners have suggested? Here, Dr Renwick argues that the use of Article 50 would, in practice, be unavoidable.

Suddenly, the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 is the talk of the town. This is the legal provision setting out how a member state can leave the European Union. First, the departing state declares its intention to leave. Then negotiations are conducted between the departing state and the remaining 27. Either a deal is done and the departing state leaves on those terms, or, after two years, the departing state automatically exits (unless a unanimous vote of all the member states prolongs the window).

I spelt out the terms of Article 50 in detail in a previous post, and discussed the implications – including whether it would in practice prevent negotiation to stay in the EU on better terms in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote. In today’s Telegraph I discuss the politics around Boris Johnson’s hints of a second referendum to improve those terms. Here I focus on a narrower question that has been receiving much attention: Would the Prime Minister actually be obliged to invoke Article 50 in the event that the referendum delivers a majority for Brexit? Doing so would lock the UK into negotiations on quite disadvantageous terms. Some have suggested that Cameron could avoid this, and thus gain more flexibility for the UK in the event of a vote to leave: either in order to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership, or to gain advantage in the negotiations for our terms of departure. But is avoiding Article 50 possible?

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What happens if we vote for Brexit?

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The EU referendum could be held as early as June so clarity is needed about what will happen in the event of a vote to leave. In this post Alan Renwick explains Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets out the procedure for leaving the EU. Under it a second in/out referendum of the type floated by Boris Johnson among others is not possible. Anybody suggesting that voters can vote to ‘leave’ safe in the knowledge that they can later change their minds is either playing with fire or manipulating voters disingenuously.

2016 looks likely to be the year in which voters get to decide whether the UK will stay in the European Union.  If David Cameron secures a deal with other EU leaders next month, we can expect to know the referendum date shortly afterwards.  Then the key players will settle their positions and decide their core arguments.  In the run-up to this crucial moment, we need clarity as to what the options are and what will happen in the event of a vote to remain or to leave.

The implications of a vote to remain are easily predicted: the UK will stay in the EU, with whatever tweaks to our terms of membership David Cameron has negotiated.  But what happens in the event of a vote to leave?  That is much less obvious.  This post sets out the processes and probes their implications.

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