Dear members of Her Majesty’s Government,
In your efforts to ensure the UK’s smooth transition away from EU membership, you have met more than one stumbling block. It’s still unclear whether the European Court of Justice will maintain jurisdiction in Britain. The amount of money on offer to the EU to “settle your accounts” has only increased, and does not yet appear to satisfy your counterparts. And, most recently, you have been unable to find a compromise on your land border with the Republic of Ireland that suits all parties. On all fronts, your attempts to define a future relationship with the EU have fallen short. It’s time to keep calm and walk away from Brexit negotiations.
The campaign to leave the EU was premised on a single, powerful concept: sovereignty. Democratic control over British money, British laws, and British borders was the order given by voters, and so far the negotiations between you and the EU have produced none of these.
The proposed cost of settling your accounts with the EU seems less grounded in objective facts than in shrewd negotiating tactics by your counterparts. The EU appears to be testing how much they can extract from your taxpayers before you walk away, rather than approaching the issue in good faith.
You may partially recover legal sovereignty after concluding negotiations, but so far the EU has demanded that its citizens’ rights be ensured by the European Court of Justice, not British courts. What’s more, any deal that calls for Northern Ireland to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union (de facto or de jure) would mean the supremacy of EU law over 1.9 million Britons. This scenario hardly represents taking back control of your laws.
On the issue of borders, you face incredible challenges, especially regarding your 310-mile land border with the Republic of Ireland. So far, the EU appears ready to sign an agreement allowing for Northern Ireland to remain “aligned” with Single Market and Customs Union regulations. But as mentioned above, this would in effect mean millions of Britons remaining under EU jurisdiction.
All of this isn’t to say you have not tried. You have reiterated on numerous occasions that the European Court of Justice will not have supremacy over the UK, and that no de facto border will emerge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Nevertheless, the EU have given no indication that they will accept these terms.
In the face of such obstinacy, there remains a single realistic option for Britain: walking away from Brexit negotiations and preparing for what comes next.
You have already triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signaling your departure from the EU by March 29, 2019. The time that remains before then is probably not sufficient to negotiate both the terms of your departure and your future trading relationship with the EU, given the time your counterparts often take to carry out such talks. However, the months ahead can suffice to anticipate the next chapter in your national history.
To start, the UK needs to politely but sternly cease current Brexit negotiations. Talks with the EU have already taken months off your timetable, and produced little of value in return. Instead of spending limited Whitehall resources on a dead-end deal that will hamstring Britain, the bulk of your energy should be dedicated to the economic relationships that will define Britain’s future.
Between them, the US, Japan, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand (all of which have expressed strong interest in deepening trade ties with the UK) amount to almost twice the EU-27 GDP, and have a 16% larger population. And these are but the beginning; China, India and South Korea are also eager to engage with an independent Britain.
Now is the time for the UK to pre-emptively build relationships elsewhere, as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s department has already started to do. In doing so, you will minimize the impacts on trade with the continent through increasing trade with the world.
Of course, the 27 member states of the European Union will always be a significant trading partner for the UK. However, ending EU membership does not mean ending all trade with the EU. Britain currently buys more from the EU than it sells back, meaning greater pressure is on Brussels to eventually ensure mutually-favourable trade terms.
There is no doubt that business as usual will be disrupted in the short term. This is why it is important you dedicate efforts to informing citizens and businesses of the details a no-deal scenario will entail. This way, Britons can hope for the best while preparing for the worst—no nasty surprises.
It won’t be easy, but like pulling off a sticking plaster, leaving the EU is best done quickly. Short-term pain for long-term gain.
Ultimately, your future depends on your outlook. You are faced with a choice between the pessimism of a tired EU, mired in the tribulations of a lost decade, and the optimism of a growing world—where Britain remains a respected brand. The world needs Britain back, and this can only happen if Britain makes a clean break with the past 44 years.
It’s high time to keep calm, and walk away from Brexit negotiations.