Brexit Update: A troublesome process

The decision taken by the UK Members of Parliament to approve their government’s triggering of Article 50 on 9 March, which will initiate the process of (Br)exiting the European Union, seems not to have stopped discussions on whether to proceed with Brexit.

Tony Blair’s (late) campaign to remain

Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister, urged voters to “change their mind’ on leaving the EU. He called on the British people to “rise up” against “hard Brexit” and to stop Britain leaving the European Union. This appeal arrived on 16 February during a speech organized by Open Britain, the campaign group set up by leading Remain campaigners to oppose hard Brexit, after the Parliamentary vote in February that has “set in stone” the decision of the UK to leave the EU.

Throughout his speech, Blair acknowledged the fact that “the British people voted to leave Europe”, agreeing that the decision by the British electorate “should prevail” and that “right now there is no widespread appetite to re-think” the outcome. However, he stressed that “the people voted without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit,” and “as these terms become clear, it is their right to change their mind.” Blair therefore called on remain campaigners to make it their mission to now “persuade them to do so”.

The intervention, the first major one since last year’s bitterly fought EU referendum, calls for an outright reversal of June’s referendum vote. It also urges Prime Minister Theresa May to provide a way in which Britain can reconsider its planned departure, if voters decide they are unsatisfied with the agreement that emerges from the negotiations.

Blair’s address comes shortly after MPs voted to approve the bill that gives Theresa May approval to begin the divorce talks that need to be concluded a within two year timeframe. The former Prime Minister’s view also clashes with current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to support Ms. May’s plans to start the negotiations and, more generally, with his “lukewarm” campaign which had failed to convince its voters to back Remain. 

The continent’s opinion: the Brexit bill

The duration of the negotiations, however, is a matter of discussion within the European Commission. In fact, its President Jean-Claude Juncker believes that the talks and agreements required for the UK to leave the bloc a bound to last more than two years, particularly in light of the fact that more than 20,000 laws would have to be changed in the UK before the country could leave Europe.

The process of negotiating the deal may also be further complicated by ongoing financial commitments made by the UK government as part of its membership. While it is hard to calculate the precise sum the UK will owe the bloc after its departure, most parties agree that the sum will be considerable with Commission Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas likening it “It is like going to the pub with 27 friends: You order a round of beer but then you cannot leave while the party continues. You still need to pay for the round you ordered.”