Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Late Brexit at Parliament

The plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union is something that Parliament will have to vote on. That was the view of legal scholars and political analysts all along, and now it is the official opinion of the British court with jurisdiction on the question. Looking at it one way, the involvement of Parliament in a question of policy makes perfect sense, but looking at it another way, the requirement greatly complicates the British exit from the EU. Political opinion is not so unified that a simple question on an EU exit will pass. The Prime Minister will have to present a general plan of how the EU exit will go. The trouble with that, of course, is that no matter what plan Britain goes to the EU with, there is no realistic chance of it passing intact. The near-failure of a trade agreement with Canada just a few days ago shows how hard it is to get all of Europe to agree on anything. Nevertheless Britain must take its best guess on the outline of its future trade arrangements with the EU and make its best case for that approach. That should be the same plan that the Prime Minister presents to her own country. Regardless of the difficulties, the plan has to be written out and agreed to, in general terms if not in all the specifics, before the formal paperwork and diplomacy can get started. With so much riding on the initial plan document, it has to be researched in detail and written thoughtfully. It is a tall order. It could take months to do, perhaps even a year. Britain’s EU exit will be delayed. But it is British law and especially EU law that mandate this approach, and the chances of getting Europe to bend its laws just to make things easier for Britain at this point are, for all practical purposes, nonexistent.