November 15, 2018

Time is on the side of the remainers

By Barend ter Haar.

Two years have passed since the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU, but it remains unclear what that means because the UK tries to have its cake and eat it.

It seems unlikely that on this basis a stable and long-lasting divorce agreement can be build. Nevertheless all political attention is now focussed on reaching agreement, because a no deal exit would be even more damaging. However, there is a third and better option: play for time.
According to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty the European Council might “in agreement with the Member State concerned” decide to extend the period before final withdrawal. It would be wise to do so to give the UK time to get its act together. As several political and demographic trends work together, this could very well, sooner or later, lead to a reversal of the UK ‘s decision to leave the EU.

1. First of all, it becomes more obvious, almost every day, that the promised advantages of Brexit are mainly cosmetic, and that all the options have severe drawbacks. The Canada option could work if the UK moved a few thousand miles to the West and became part of North America, but it would jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement. The Norway option does not require a border through Ireland, but would in practice mean that London will lose control in Brussels rather than take it back.

2. Secondly, year after year the evidence is growing that an effective approach of major problems such as climate change, Russian misbehaviour and proliferation of nuclear weapons requires more, not less European cooperation and commitment.

3. The central position that the UK once had in the world is continuously eroding further, inter alia because of the rise of China and India. If the UK wants to have a global impact, it will have to work through the EU.
The proponents of Brexit might ignore those facts, but sooner or later they will be confronted by two related demographic trends.

4. About 70% of the voters with an academic degree voted for Remain and the number of British people with an academic degree is rising quickly.

5. A majority of the voters under 45 voted for remain, as did more than 60% of the voters between 25 and 34 and more than 70% of the voters younger than 25.

All this makes it likely that it is only a question of time before a majority of British voters will want to remain in the EU or get back in. Therefore, instead of rushing into a hasty compromise, the EU and the UK would be well advised to take the necessary time to consider all options, to refrain as much as possible from taking costly measures that prejudge the final out come and give the UK the time to reconsider its position.

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