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A more nuanced solution to Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 27th, 2016 at 11:43:42 AM EST

Discussion of Brexit has been almost exclusively based on the proposition that the UK will exit en bloc, and that the only possible exceptions to this are if Scotland were to vote for Independence, or N. Ireland were to vote to join a united Ireland.  But there are some precedents for more nuanced solutions to the fact that both Scotland and N. Ireland voted Remain.  For instance, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remain part of the Kingdom of Denmark but with substantially independent political institutions, and neither are part of the EU.

The Faroe Islands secured an opt-out when Denmark joined the EU in 1973 (the same time as the UK and Ireland) and Greenland voted to leave the EU in 1985. In both cases the decision was based on their desire to retain independent control of fish stocks in their territorial waters.  The UK already issues distinctive passports for residents of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and Jersey is neither a Member State nor an Associate Member of the European Union.
Jersey and the EU

Jersey is part of the European Union Customs Union of the European Community. The common customs tariff, levies and other agricultural import measures apply to trade between the island and non-Member States. There is free movement of goods and trade between the island and Member States. EU rules on freedom of movement for workers do not apply in Jersey.

So what if England and Wales exited the EU, but Scotland and N. Ireland remained? Both are substantially self-governing and have economic interests distinct from the rest of the UK. Their First Ministers have demanded a central role in the negotiation process and even Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones departed from Theresa May's "hard Brexit" position by insisting Wales wanted to retain full access to the European single market. Remaining part of both the UK and the EU would go some way towards appeasing both the Independence and Unionist voters in Scotland, whilst allaying Spanish fears of setting a precedent for Catalonian independence.


So what are the implications of Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining within the EU while England pursues a hard brexit strategy?  Firstly the Scotland England border would become a hard border with customs and immigration controls for non UK nationals. The N. Ireland England customs and immigrations controls could, more conveniently, be located at sea and air ports. The republic of Ireland could undertake to represent N. Ireland interests within the various institutions of the EU and N. Ireland would retain its three seats in the European Parliament. Northern Ireland would remain a largely self-governing part of the UK thus putting to rest Unionists fears of a southern Irish take-over, and southern Irish fears of having to subvent the N. Ireland administration to the tune of c. £11 Billion p.a.

But who, besides its six members of the European parliament, would represent Scottish interests in the other institutions of the EU? Effectively Scotland would become a sort of associate member, bound by EU regulations, but with little say on their implementation. Some have suggested that Ireland and Scotland could form some sort of "Celtic Union" whereby their interests could be jointly represented at EU level, but this seems unworkable. Scotland is either part of the UK, or it is not. Ireland could act as "a good neighbour" for Scotland, representing its interests where possible, but without independent representation on the Commission, anti-EU sentiment in Scotland might grow.

All in all, allowing N. Ireland and Scotland to remain within both the UK and the EU seems an interim solution at best, putting off more difficult decisions on Scottish Independence and Irish re-unification to another day. But there is nothing wrong with that. Procrastination in politics is an art form designed to forestall more immediate conflict on difficult issues, with a view to new solutions becoming more acceptable with the march of time. There is no reason why Scotland couldn't be an associate member of the EU more or less indefinitely, unless at some stage in the future, it decided to go for full independence and membership of the EU. The point is that full independence now need not be a pre-requisite for continued membership of the EU for all practical purposes.

For N. Ireland, the advantages are more obvious. No need for a hard border on a 500km land border even 10,000 British troops couldn't secure during the Troubles. Less risk of an upsurge in nationalist alienation from the Northern Ireland state that a hard border and increasing divergence from the south would engender. Devolved political institutions in N. Ireland could remain more or less as they are now. People could retain their UK citizenship and identity and only matters pertaining to the EU would be transferred from London to Dublin, perhaps with additional safeguards to ensure that N. Ireland interests are adequately protected - such as through a joint Dail and N. Ireland assembly committee on EU affairs.

The problem with the analogies given above is that they are examples of non sovereign but self-governing territories opting out of the EU, whereas Scotland and N. Ireland would be opting to remain in. However the UK leaving the EU is also a unique and unprecedented situation, and so perhaps a bit of innovation is required to come up with an optimal solution for all concerned. Theresa May's dream of achieving a common negotiating position for all of the UK seems a pious hope at best. The reality is likely to be more nuanced.

Having touted the will of the people as expressed in the Referendum, May is not in a good position to ignore the referendum results in Scotland and N. Ireland especially as there are precedents for the results of referenda in those territories being considered legally binding in their own right. You cannot say the Scottish referendum on Independence was legally binding, and then ignore the Scottish referendum result on Brexit. The Good Friday agreement - an international Treaty lodged with the UN - enshrines the right of the people of N. Ireland to determine their own constitutional status by way of referendum. Well, they spoke on Brexit. It wasn't a vote for a United Ireland, but it was a vote to remain within the EU.

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Jersey's privileged position of being part of the Single Market and yet not allowing freedom of movement of EU workers seems likely to be quoted by Leavers as a precedent the UK should seek to emulate.  But the EU makes lots of special arrangements for relatively insignificant small territories like Jersey or Lichtenstein which it would not necessarily be prepared to make for major economies like Switzerland or the UK.  

Indeed Jersey may well lose its privileged position as part of Brexit, especially with the EU's increased focus on eliminating tax havens. Gibraltar, too, may well lose its privileged status, unless the UK is prepared to do a deal with Spain.  It's ultimately a matter of power, and at the moment the UK is in a poor negotiating position.  

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 27th, 2016 at 12:08:32 PM EST
It is the first I ever read this claim of Jersey being in the single market. After a few minutes of web searches I was not able to corroborate it. What is your source on this?

As far as I am aware Jersey has a similar statute to Turkey.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 01:51:52 PM EST
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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Oct 31st, 2016 at 04:50:28 PM EST
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That excerpt says exactly the same I wrote. Jersey is in the Customs Union (like Turkey) but is not abridged by an FTA for full integration in the common market.

Other sources:

The EU and the Channel Islands

Special member state territories and the European Union

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 08:06:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did I write anything different? As an aside, I have a friend working in the financial services industry in Luxembourg who thinks that Jersey's financial pass porting rights into the EU Single Market work just fine and will serve as a model for the UK when they leave the EU.  

I have difficulty in believing the EU will give the UK the same deal as Jersey.  Indeed, I suspect the EU may well use Brexit as an opportunity to end jersey's special deal given the current focus on eliminating tax havens.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 04:47:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the moment I think that chaos looms over everything.

Nissan may have opted to remain and invest in their production facility in Sunderland, but everybody is asking what sweeteners were offered under the table. allthough, it's entirely possible that Nissan, seeing the pound crashing, have decided that the reduction in unit cost will offset the expense of selling into the EU.

But nbody believes the banks will do so.

Beyond that, the routine incompetence and naivity of the Govt is beginning to actually scare people. The recent revelation of theresa May's speech to Goldman Sachs about the inevitability of catastophe upon brexit has annoyed a lot of people. This is because, having been a silent partner of the remain campaign, this speech shows that she is less of a leader than a follower, keeping her counsel but allowing others to step forward. If she'd had a real idea of how to take the country forward, it's felt that she should have beeen more vocal during the campaign. However, it's at least 4 months too late to start having doubts about May's leadership qualities.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Oct 27th, 2016 at 08:20:19 PM EST
As Metatone points out elsewhere, this is a 4-5 year thing. At least two and half years of the production will be done within the EU, so it's really only two  years that are in question - and probably the two years of tapering off sales for an older model.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 09:24:03 AM EST
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Given human nature and the politics involved, I'd bet on the worst case scenario, but I can't figure out which one is actually worst.
by rifek on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 01:58:20 AM EST
In this particular case it might be a case of Scotland and N. Ireland declining to follow England over the cliff having taken the time to view the sheer drop below. England, having had its hissy fit at losing its pre-eminent place in the world, is going to carry on regardless.  Indeed Carry On Regardless feels like the name of the movie.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 07:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely leaving the UK in face of a hostile Tory government is not easier than leaving the EU in face of a hostile union?
At least the UK doesn't need to establish a new currency.
by generic on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 10:32:51 AM EST
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The whole point of this post is that it may not be necessary for Scotland and N. Ireland to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 02:01:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, sorry.
by generic on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 02:53:50 PM EST
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"Keep calm, and be a lemming."
by rifek on Sun Oct 30th, 2016 at 04:22:21 AM EST
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French who have lived in the UK for decades are suffering Brexit abuse, says ambassador
The French Ambassador to the UK has said that since the EU referendum her country's citizens have suffered abuse in Britain and feel like foreigners where they once felt at home.

Sylvie Bermann said many of the 300,000 French nationals in the UK, including highly-skilled workers, are now reassessing their future in Britain.

It comes after the Home Office recently confirmed that hate crime spiked in the wake of the Brexit vote.

EU citizens in UK fear for jobs ahead of Brexit talks

One Spanish national working in tech, who has been in the country for the past 16 years, reported a "big feeling of being unwelcome".

"I have been called an immigrant when my country has 10 times more British immigrants," he said. "My country has to support 10 times more British immigrants in Spanish hospitals [than the NHS does]. On top of this, every time I go to a British hospital I meet Spanish nurses and doctors. British society has changed, and I don't feel part of it any more."

Having lined up a new and better-paid job back in Spain he relocated with his family this summer.

A Dutch national, who has been in Britain for more than a decade, said he had been subjected to "overt hostility from random people on the street" when speaking on the phone in his native language. "I have experienced the whole gamut of comments from ... `go back to where you came from' to threatening [and] abusive shouts," he said. "I have started two companies in the UK, both of which I am either closing or moving to the continent."

A German financial services worker reported similar incidents, saying that his children had been called Nazis by British youths. "We have been asked in aggressive tones whether we are speaking Polish several times when speaking German on public transport," he said. His company is now moving him and his family back to mainland Europe.

by Bernard on Fri Oct 28th, 2016 at 09:27:36 PM EST
It's horrible, a whole slew of people who thought they were an insignificant isolated minority and who kept their vileness at a low level now see their hatred validated, look around and imagine they see a thousand who think just like them.

And that's just the Conservative back benches

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Oct 29th, 2016 at 11:33:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A German financial services worker reported similar incidents, saying that his children had been called Nazis by British youths.

I've heard comments like that from Germans for a long time, well before Brexit.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Oct 29th, 2016 at 09:05:10 PM EST
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Greenland and Faroe Isles
Now is the time for everyone to take a deep breath, put aside dismissive attitudes about places like Greenland and the Faroes being too small to really mean anything to anybody. We must think hard about new ways multistate federations like the EU can engage with multinational states like the UK. That is, if the UK really has the will to remain a multinational state.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Oct 29th, 2016 at 11:28:54 AM EST
The traditional answer to that question has been "break them up and deal with the individual provinces individually."

Which still seems like an okay solution. A fitting epitaph for the British Empire.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 1st, 2016 at 09:32:34 PM EST
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