It’s the worst alternative, except when compared to everything else, which is why Britain should take the get-out-of-Brexit-free card offered the European Court of Justice (EOJ). Last week, ECJ judges ruled that Britain can unilaterally cancel Brexit. Wouldn’t that run afoul of the 2016 referendum that delivered a 52%-to-48% win in favor of leaving the European Union? No, because the UK can revoke its plans to leave the EU and announce a commitment to develop a new Brexit going forward. The new plan would have the benefit of agreement between Parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May (or her successor). At that point, assuming it ever comes, Britain can present the plan to the EU and begin fresh negotiations with Brussels.
The main source of turmoil in the current Brexit situation is the uncertainty over the details of departure. May’s negotiations with the European Union (EU) are widely reported to be a deal that will be dead on arrival in Parliament, leaving the UK with the likelihood that it will crash out of the EU with no deal in March, the current Brexit deadline. In that case, a laundry list of economic troubles for Britain await.
Avoiding a no-deal Brexit is a high priority, or at least it should be. Ideally the UK at this late date would have a reasonable deal that’s politically palatable all around, more than two years after the referendum. But with a no-deal exit approaching, it’s time for desperate measures.
The only sane course now is for the UK government to revoke Brexit and then lay out plans to internally debate and approve a new blueprint for leaving. When and if Parliament and the prime minister are on the same page, that document can be presented to the EU for further negotiation (assuming Brussels doesn’t accept it outright, which it almost certainly will not). Yes, this would be torturous and take time, perhaps years (decades?). But this plan has several crucial advantages over the current chaos.
First, Parliament and the prime minister would be on the same page with a Brexit plan. Second, the ticking economic time bomb of potentially leaving the EU with no agreement wouldn’t be lurking in the background. Third, the original Brexit referendum would be honored in the sense that the government would be moving forward to implement the people’s mandate.
Granted, finding agreement on a Brexit within the UK government and, subsequently, between Britain and the EU will be tough, perhaps impossible. But that’s true now and always will be, given the complexity of the relationship between the two sides. The mistake in the current mess is linked to announcing that the UK would leave the EU without finding common ground first, within Britain, on the details. If the country can’t find that common ground, it shouldn’t delude itself that it can leave the EU.
It’s quite possible that revoking Brexit and then finding a workable plan that all sides can embrace will be impossible. In that case, business as usual prevails. Better to explore this uncharted terrain, with sky-high stakes, without the clock ticking that threatens a no-deal Brexit.
Will Britain will take this route? Unlikely, which means that the current stalemate between Prime Minister May and Parliament will prevail. In turn, the UK looks set to exit the EU in March in what’s likely to be a chaotic withdrawal, unleashing a myriad of economic risks.
Brexit, in short, is spinning out of control and Britain’s economy is in the crosshairs. There is, however, a solution, if only the UK can muster the political willpower to embrace it.