No time to waste in taking the initiative — including a Trump announced new trade agreement with the UK.
The importance of last week’s “Brexit” vote cannot be diminished, even by those on our side of the Atlantic who insist on seeing only its possible effects on our November presidential election.
In defining the importance of Brexit, the reactions within the EU are a good place to start. Brit PM David Cameron, having staked everything on his campaign to remain in the EU, has said he’ll resign in October. Cameron wants the UK to wait until a new leader is chosen to begin the formal process of getting out of the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s primary treaty.
The first members of the EU — France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands — reacted in panic. They fear, quite rightly, that the Brexit vote presages other nations’ exits from the EU. They insist that the Brits immediately invoke Article 50 to start the clock on its two-year deadline for any nation exiting the EU to negotiate its way out.
The 27 remaining EU nations will want to penalize Britain for its exit. Only Germany’s Angela Merkel has said the split from Britain needn’t be nasty. But she won’t be able to control the others.
The EU’s primary members will, as the negotiations roll out, insist on imposing tariffs and other trade restrictions on the UK. That they want to penalize the second-largest economy will affect them all negatively (as Merkel realizes). But the EU “powers” will make it as costly as they can, in economic and political terms.
They will try to insist on some form of open border agreement and with it some version of the EU’s human rights laws.
That will make it enormously difficult for the UK to succeed in its exit negotiations. Or will it?
Now that the UK Parliament is in control of the matter, it can do several things that will unwind the UK from the EU. It should begin immediately and proceed deliberately.