Wednesday, the 29th of March 2017 is an historic date. The day with one letter delivered by the UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow to the president of the EU, Donald Tusk, the United Kingdom begins the process of bringing 44 years of the UK’s membership of the EU and its predecessor, the EEC to an end. There is no going back now.
This is how the letter begins:
“Dear President Tusk
On 23 June last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states. On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.
Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 13 March and it received Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen and became an Act of Parliament on 16 March.
Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community. References in this letter to the European Union should therefore be taken to include a reference to the European Atomic Energy Community.”
I’ve attached a link to the full letter below.
It is a somber day and it has come 9 months after the historic vote to leave the EU on June the 23rd. 9 months of much political and social turmoil, bitter arguments and abuse from both sides. The terms ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’ and ‘little englander’ amongst others has been applied to every single one of the ‘leave’ voters. Voters such as myself. It has been very disheartening to watch the country effectively split in two, with seemingly no way to bridge the divide. Yes, I voted to leave the European Union. Not because I wanted to, my natural instincts were to remain, but because I felt I had to. The EU to me was a failed and doomed ‘Superstate’ project and the sensible choice was to leave. I reluctantly came to that conclusion after many years of researching the politics and economics of the EU as a whole and the individual EU member states. Anyway the reasons anyone voted ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ are all moot now and there is no need to rehash the referendum debate here.
I am not rejoicing nor celebrating. Brexit could and should have been avoided but for the intransigence from the EU ideologues. I knew Brexit was inevitable when David Cameron went to Brussels to seek a “new settlement” for Britain, promising to obtain some concessions for Britain that would have probably quietened, if not silenced, the Eurosceptics for a long time and got nothing of note. Nothing. Their arrogance, complacency and unwillingness to reform or grant any meaningful concessions was breathtaking. Shocking even.
I’ve observed all the ensuing events since the the referendum with a heavy heart but a clear head (I hope) and it seems to me that the whole country is still stuck in the referendum debate. We are still having the same debates we have been having for years. What is the point? We have had the debate, the referendum vote, and there was a narrow but clear decision. 9 months on, even after Wednesday’s momentous event, many cannot accept that the UK is leaving the EU.
I’m pretty certain that the period leading up the the EU referendum till now will go down in history as one of the most divisive periods, if not the most divisive, in the UK’s history. Many relationships have been strained or broken, and many relationship counsellors have reported numerous cases of marriages brought to the brink of divorce by the EU referendum. sigh. I know all too well the ostracisation and estrangement that comes with voting the ‘wrong’ way.
The UK is attempting to do what no country has done before: Leave the EU and untangle an economic and political relationship that officially began in 1973 when the UK gained admittance into the EEC (European Economic Community) It will not be easy. The exit process and even the triggering of Article 50 is convoluted and not well thought out. Clearly no one expected, or even entertained the possibility of an EU member country having the audacity to leave. The triggering of Article 50 is only the firing of the starting gun signalling the beginning of the 2 year (at the very least) process of leaving the EU. The terms of the ‘divorce’ have to be agreed, (the EU is demanding a 50 BILLION pound settlement), and a trade deal negotiated. This is the source of my greatest fear and apprehension. The fact that the UK is hopelessly divided has definitely weakened our hand at the negotiating table. Theresa May has almost implacable opponents on both sides of the channel. I do not envy her.
Many of these people seem all too willing to ‘burn the house down’ with them still inside. Many are hoping it seems, that brexit turns out to be an absolute disaster just so they can say ‘I told you so’. Trust me, if it turns out to be the disaster many have predicted, being right and being able to say ‘I told you so’ would be the least of their worries. Many do not seem to realise, or simply do not care, that irrespective of which side of the argument you are on, EVERYONE in the UK will suffer the consequences of a bad brexit. Inflation, unemployment and recessions do not respect political leanings and voting choices.
The triumphalist rhetoric coming from many brexiteers is also very unhelpful. Many do not know how to be gracious in victory. The 52% do not seem to understand that they need the support of the 48%. Triumphalism will not win over the 48%.
In my view, everyone needs to get out of their entrenched positions and go into ‘damage limitation’ mode. If many on both sides of the channel believe that brexit is a disaster then surely the sensible thing is to ensure the least bad disaster?
One can only hope that common sense prevails. That pragmatism and realism triumph over ideology, bitterness and division. It is in everyone’s best interest that this be so.