By Sophie Minter
On the 10th December 2018 the press release published by the Court of Justice in the European Union, while perhaps representing a figurative and patronizing shrug of the shoulders as if to say “it’s ok, we all make mistakes”, represented a significant public acknowledgment. We (The UK) now have other options than simply those of insanity. The contents of the press release outlining the judgment made in Luxemburg offers an essential second chance.
The aforementioned press release acknowledges a remarkably unknown clause that was put forward in a petition on December 19th 2016 in the inner house of the EU Parliament. This additional clause to the Brexit negotiations passed by members of the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament determines whether the triggering of Article 50 can be revoked. The passing of this clause after the shocking mistake we the British public made in June 2016 means that our Parliament now has 3 options prior to the official withdrawal from the European Union in 2019. So, as we welcome the new year in it is perhaps now time to finally draw attention to the three options members of the House of Commons now have when it comes to the final vote: withdrawal from the EU without an agreement, withdrawal from the EU accepting the current (disliked) agreement or the revocation of the notification on the intent to withdraw- essentially a manifestation of Hermione’s timer turner. It’s almost as if the EU realized that posing such an important question to an ill-informed partisan public was a bad idea without first providing full education on the issue and proper acknowledgement of the good, the bad and the ugly (no reference to a British stereotype intended there are all…).
My forte clearly is not European and UK politics, so bear with me while I transfer humanitarianism writing into domestic politics. With my limited inside knowledge it is however, I believe, necessary to draw attention to the fact that from an outside perspective it appears that in the wake of Theresa May delaying the parliamentary vote on the 10th December 2018 it seems like the godsend that EU passed a petition giving us a safety button, whose activation is well overdue. From the broad base of democracy, it now comes down to the British public to push our representatives in the House of Commons to consider pressing the big green (or more accurately blue and white button) to freeze the Brexit process in its tracks.
This seems like a perfect time to rant about the importance of participation-political participation to be exact. We as the electorate have a lot of power particularly with such a close margin between the two major parties currently in parliament, it is therefore our duty as a members of the ‘represented’ to pressure our representatives to consider all of the options; to consider the fact that we as a nation were not prepared to make this decision in 2016 and are still not whether we are members of parliament, lawyers or bin men (not to say that some aren’t highly educated on politics, but we all have our political allegiances). The UK is simply too partisan now to make a decision that will benefit UK prosperity. This is not an issue of party politics it is an issue of what situation will our country grow the best in. Something which many Brexiters have argued depends on character (a mask for sovereignty). Therefore we have a responsibility, a duty, to ensure that the members of parliament don’t make rash decisions whilst under the global spotlight and time pressure, voting not in line with their traditional partisan voting lines and instead in line with facts.
When considering the current international context and the backdrop in which the vote occurred, we simply cannot afford to go into this blind and to try to carry out the decision of an ill-informed public when trying to avoid further criticism, which has too often been placed above educated decisions on the continued prosperity of the country, its citizens, the economy and the people who rightfully deserve asylum within our borders. Too often does the realist ideal of self-help rear its head when options to go back on decision occur. What needs to be considered are the workings of the international system by people, no matter their background or personal opinion. When presented with this knowledge no-one can deny that if we do move to isolate ourselves through leaving, especially without a deal, we would face disastrous negative repercussions.
The above may all seem like a huge sweeping statement that for the want of a better phrase comes across as a liberal elitist argument that is attempting to achieve the impossible but ignore party preference and one’s own preferences for a second and consider what our world looks like today: describe it in three words…
If I were a betting person I would argue that the majority of those of you reading this article considered: growth, development and diversity as accurate descriptions of our world today. But what exactly does this mean? For anyone unfamiliar with International Relations Theory (IRT) what this means is that when considering these specific words to describe our world as we know it today, it means that the world has developed to the extent that we are so dependent on one another for the continuing standards and ease of our daily lives that we cannot afford to be isolated. We are internationally dependent on people across the world for access to different locations but also crucially the importing of goods services and continuing economic growth meaning that we simply cannot afford to deviate from the path globalization has set in the International System. Subsequently, what many globalization theorists who have placed this phenomenon on the map within IRT point to is that it is those who deviate from the ‘norm’ are punished because deviating behaviour cannot be rewarded, owing to the direction that growth occurs in the international system. This is particularly true under liberal IRT wherein interdependence and cooperation are sought as liberal IR theorists see it as a way of controlling the anarchic system that our world exists in.
This is unfortunately something that we have no control over now that a preference for interdependence has been set under the growth of the UN and other international organizations. This system structure that we cannot go against is one based on a fundamental element in human nature: the want to better oneself and pursue continued advancement in other words capitalism which under the current system occurs through free market neoliberal trading. As we have seen over the past two years this has not made it impossible to deviate away from such programs, for example Trump’s policies, but rather irresponsible to do so. It is this type of program that is enshrined within the framework of the EU, a framework that Brexiters are pushing back against much like Trump and his steady removal of the United States from international committees and organizations such as NATO has done. This is of course, I argue a dangerous move as it moves away from the norm, behaviour that does not fit in line with the current system.
It therefore seems bittersweet that on the 10th December 2018, the EU Court of Justice enacted the petition which now means that “when a member state has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU, as the UK has done, that Member States is free to revoke unilaterally its decision to leave”. The enactment of this on the same day that we saw endless drama unfold in Parliament following the delaying of the agreement vote, it appears something somewhat of a miracle. Thus, in light of what I have discussed above this decision to enact the petition put forward in 2016 has perfect timing, allowing our representatives to realise that they have more options other than chaos. They can accept that enacting Article 50 did not set in stone a take it or leave it situation because Article 50 at the time did not explicitly address the subject of revocation- leaving originating from the fact that Article 50 does not remove the UK as a member of the EU following enactment, or even suspend its membership from the commission. This means that we can turn back time. So, it appears to me that the decision to remove ourselves from a crucial entity both for global governance but also state success has a chance not to be permanent. But as with Hermione’s time turner turning back the clock will still have consequences that will be decided by the European Union itself as “messing with time is a dangerous thing” that when done right can save lives or in this case a state. Thus, surely some loss of sovereignty no matter how much of a realist you are. It makes sense to allow a few consequences of turning back time to hit us to save the UK and EU from becoming a Shakespeare tragedy.