Brexit – who’s to blame?

(i) Background

1957: Rome Treaty – establishment of 3 “communities”:

Creation of: Customs Union, CAP and a European Social Fund

1973: UK joins the European Community

1975: 67% of British people vote to stay in the European Community (common market) in a referendum

1992: Maastricht Treaty – creation of the EU and the Euro UK avoids monetary integration

1993: Single European Act: The common market (freedom of goods, capital, services and labour) UK avoids Schengen area

2007: Lisbon Treaty (to replace and supersede Rome and Maastricht) – centralisation of political institutions

2016: 52% of British people vote to leave the EU

Interpretation: broad support amongst the British people for the single market and close economic and social ties to a European institution. Less support for membership of a federal “state” and the referendum result reflects the fact that (a) people are concerned of the direction of future travel towards a greater political union (and implied loss of sovereignty); (b) evidence that the EU is becoming an increasingly political enterprise. Issues such as an EU “army”, further expansion, loss of sovereignty are genuine ones because there is a reasonable concern that this is the direction of travel.

(ii) The decisions

  1. David Cameron makes a referendum on membership of the EU a central part of his 2015 election manifesto – it wasn’t a blunder because it’s an important issue to the Tory party and helped him to win the election
  2. February 2016 Cameron announces a EU reform deal, following negotiations with Donald Tusk (EU Council President) – it wasn’t a blunder because the EU would have had to have granted concessions for other member states
  3. Jeremy Corbyn declines to campaign for Remain during the 2016 referendum – it wasn’t a blunder because he was sticking to his principles
  4. On announcement of the referendum result, David Cameron resigns
  5. June 20th 2016: Boris Johnson withdraws from leadership race – it wasn’t a blunder because he didn’t have the support
  6. New (and unchallenged) PM, Theresa May outlines her vision for Brexit in January 2017 – it wasn’t a blunder because the red lines were reasonable
  7. March 29th 2017: Theresa May triggers Article 50, giving the UK 2 years to leave the EU – it wasn’t a blunder because she had to signal a commitment to delivering Brexit
  8. April 18th 2017: May calls a snap election, allows Nick Timothy to devise the campaign and loses her majority – the election wasn’t a blunder because the polls were in her favour and she needed a mandate. The decision to hire Timothy wasn’t a blunder because he was the best candidate for the job 
  9. June 19th 2017: Negotiations with the EU begin
  10. November 14th 2018: May published the Withdrawal Agreement which has little support among her cabinet but is agreed by the EU – it wasn’t a blunder because it was a deliverable means of ensuring Brexit
  11. January 15th 2019: Parliament rejects May’s deal (and again on March 12th, and March 29th)
  12. May decides to step down, and is replaced by Boris Johnson on 24th July following

An interesting counterfactual is the Brexit is due to Eric Joyce headbutting a Tory MP in a House of Commons bar, in 2012. As a result of that fracas:

  • His Falkirk seat became available
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband changed the rules to allow Labour members to vote in leadership elections
  • Trolls took advantage of this to nominate Jeremy Corbyn
  • Corbyn refused to campaign for Remain

But Joyce himself points out that these changes in the Labour party would have happened regardless.