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8 DOs and DON’Ts now Cameron’s resigned

by Hugo Dixon | 24.06.2016

Brexit will harm our economy, reduce our power and, maybe, lead to a break-up the country. We now need to make the best of a bad job.

David Cameron will resign when there’s a new Tory leader, probably by October. That was necessary as he would have lacked authority to negotiate our exit. Cameron has also sensibly said it will be up to the next prime minister to determine when to trigger Article 50, the EU treaty’s divorce clause.

The priority for the next inhabitant of 10 Downing Street – presumably a Brexiteer such as Boris Johnson – will be to minimise the damage caused by yesterday’s Leave vote. Here’s an 8-point action plan.

1. Devise a proper exit plan – and publish it

Brexiteers must figure out what they want from Europe – and what they are prepared to give in return. Their current positions – full access to the single market without following its rules, paying into the budget or accepting free movement of people – are unrealistic. The less we are prepared to follow rules, make financial contributions and accept migration, the less access we’ll get.

Boris (or whoever is prime minister) needs to set out his plans openly, perhaps in a government White Paper. This should cover the government’s preferred options on trade and whether it would like to cooperate with the other countries on fighting terrorism, standing up to Russia and so forth. Before setting out the proposals, the government should have preliminary negotiations with the other EU countries to check they are realistic.

2. Secure parliamentary approval for the plan – or call an election

Once the new prime minister has set out his plan, he or she needs to get parliamentary approval. That may be tricky since the Tory party is split down the middle and has a tiny majority. It is conceivable some other parties may support it. Otherwise, it will be necessary to call a general election. That, of course, may not produce a clear conclusion either.

3. Only trigger Article 50 once parliament has backed the plan

As soon as we begin formal divorce proceedings, a two-year clock starts ticking. If we haven’t reached a deal by the end of the two years, all our trading and other arrangements with the EU would lapse. The economy would go from bad to worse. We’d also lose things like the European Arrest Warrant and cooperation on fighting terrorism, potentially harming our security.

It would be foolish to start the formal process until the new PM had a negotiating mandate from parliament for what he or she was seeking to achieve and had already agreed the broad outlines with the other EU countries.

4. Don’t try to break up the EU

Michael Gove and Nigel Farage have made clear that their goal is to break the EU up, not just to quit it. Brexit may well trigger the bloc’s disintegration. Marine Le Pen is already calling for a referendum in France, as is Holland’s Geert Wilders. But a break-up of the EU would be disastrous for us, causing further economic and political damage. Apart from that, voicing such an aim would be a red rag to our partners. It would ensure a bloody divorce, making it hard for us to get good terms.

5. Don’t pass emergency laws that breach our treaty obligations

Vote Leave has promised to pass laws so that we can ignore certain rulings of the European Court of Justice. If we do this before we actually leave the EU, we will be in breach of our obligations. This will antagonise the other European countries – again ensuring an acrimonious separation – and harm our reputation as respecters of the rule of law.

6. Don’t scapegoat Carney for financial turmoil

The pound has already dived. Brexiteers will be tempted to blame everybody but themselves for the dangers ahead. An obvious scapegoat is Mark Carney, the Canadian governor of the Bank of England who warned of trouble if we voted for Brexit.

Some members of the Leave camp called for Carney’s resignation during the campaign on the theory that his warnings could be self-fulfilling. A new Brexit premier may seek to oust him. This would be unwise. It would be seen as an end to the Bank’s independence and send investors running to the hills – inflicting further economic misery.

7. Love bomb Scotland

Given that the Scots voted solidly to remain in the EU, a second referendum on Scottish independence is probably on the cards. The new prime minister needs to find some way of love-bombing Scotland so it doesn’t peel off.

8. Don’t close the Irish border

Vote Leave’s official position is that they won’t close the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But they have not explained how they will then stop free movement of people between the EU (of which the Republic will still be a member) and the UK. Closing the border would harm the Northern Irish economy and could set back the peace process.

The pitfalls ahead are many and serious. Whoever takes the baton from Cameron will need to be wise, shrewd and lucky to avoid them. It will be the sternest test a British political leader has faced for a very long time.

Edited by Michael Prest

11 Responses to “8 DOs and DON’Ts now Cameron’s resigned”

  • David Cameron should have stayed!
    God help us !
    Our business will suffer will Borris support small business NO !! Is the answer!!

  • Let us note in passing that the usual results sophistry pertains. 52% is hardly an overwhelming result. Taking into account the 28% who failed to vote at all ( why not, we wonder?) the percentage of the potential electorate who voted out falls to 37.4 . This is not an expressed majority of population as a whole. A vote of just over 50% is far too low a barrier for a draconian realignment of this kind. Similar arguments can be applied to the alleged “majority” status of the Conservative government. The fundamentals of our democracy are deeply flawed.

  • He may not have the luxury of choosing when to trigger Art. 50. The leader of the Conservative Group in the EU Parliament is already calling for action now, before it damages the rest of Europe. There is a lot of anger at the slurs that have been made against members, against individual leaders and commissioners as well. Last night one of the Commissioners demanded that Britain show proof of the ‘corruption’ they claim is so rife in Brussels. As he said, this claim is often made, but no evidence is ever offered, no charges ever brought – so where is the corruption? No, this will not be an easy divorce.

    Personally I do not think there will be much impact on anyone or anything until the details of the separation are on the table. Nor do I think the UK will be able to simply ‘join the EFTA’ without having to accept the free movement, the ‘membership fee’ and the ‘club rules’.

  • Hugo,
    The UK will easily adapt to this and after a bumpy couple of weeks things will settle down into the new norm. I do think that you have to worry. The press have a way of overstating everything.
    You have run a very good site over the campaign and I have enjoyed reading your articles. – thank you

  • Surely now is the time for a government of National Unity. We’ve had a referendum, now we need a Community Petition to the House of Commons, along the following lines:
    “We, the concerned and caring citizens of the UK, call on our 650 elected MPs to take immediate steps to execute their constitutional and democratic duty and elect amongst themselves a Prime Minister and Cabinet of National Unity, calling on outside expertise and capacities as may be required, which would then be answerable to the whole House, and hence the whole country. Such a government is the only possible path to resolution of the present fractures in British political life and body. Now is the time to put aside petty partisan party politics, forget past grievances and feuds, and try to build a new, coherent and sustainable government institution and constitution. Only then might we be able to develop a responsible, representative government, capable of building bridges, resolving conflicts, encouraging cooperation and conciliation, and investing in the necessary social, political, economic and physical infrastructure and assets of our country and people, to promise genuine progress and provide for a viable, sustainable and secure future. Only then might we get serious about taking control and exercising genuine sovereignty.”

    • David, please start your petition on 38 Degrees. It would attract massive support from within our membership and followers.

  • I agree this has been an excellent website.

    I also think Hugo’s book was by far and away the best one on the subject. The government ought to have sent it, or something like it, to every household in the country, instead of relying on vapid slogans.

  • With or without a government of national unity it’s time for parliamentary sovereignty to mean something. The UK government should not invoke Article 50 until both houses of the Westminster parliament have considered, amended and approved a Brexit plan which sets out clear positions on border control, trade and human rights.

  • I should add that I hope that Hugo Dixon keeps either this site or another going so as to educate the public about what is going on. A rare voice of sanity.

  • Correct and rational arguments. However, they seem to ignore the political realities of the continent. No eu country is willing to drag this story long until the British have formed a plan, they need to get over with it as quickly as possible. On top of that, a good deal for the United Kingdom will only motivate further the far right wing parties of Europe. During the campaign I heard people from Leave saying “we will have access to the market because Europeans are rational”. If the British can’t vote rationally, what makes them think that Europeans will be rational and potentially hurt politically their union?

  • “Love bomb Scotland”
    Not wishing to appear dimwitted and hateful, but such a recommendation (made as if Scotland is a nation of illiterates; you think we wouldn’t read this article?) really deserves the response; Fuck off pal.