The posturing from the EU is getting a bit annoying…
What the EU needs to do is shut up, sit tight, let the dust settle in the UK, then assess exactly what the picture looks like. It’s a bit frustrating to see the EU making defiant noises now; it reinforces the image the UK has painted that the EU is comprised mainly of a bunch of amateur bureaucrats pretending to be important. We are seeing a sensible and conservative approach from Angela Merkel and Poland, but much less so from the usual suspects like Juncker.
Firstly: the UK is not going to be pressed into triggering article 50. Exercising our own judgement puts us in a position of strength, and it’s virtually the only position of strength we’re likely to have. As is painfully obvious, we never expected to vote Leave and we never had a plan for it. It’s going to take some time to clear up the details. It’s not even clear what the mechanism is for triggering A50. Foreign MEPs certainly can’t do it, so the fact this is being discussed by MEPs as if it has anything to do with them is exactly the sort of arrogance that annoys British voters. Can the PM trigger A50, or does it require a commons vote? If it requires a vote, there’s a good chance it will fail – most MPs are not in favour of leaving. Cameron has no intention of doing it or calling the vote, so nothing’s going to happen until September at the earliest. Sure, it’s very inconvenient for the EU to have the uncertainty hanging around, but it’s not their decision.
Secondly: It’s not even clear that we will trigger it. It’s in neither the EU’s nor the UK’s interests that we really go through with it. Cameron knows it, Boris knows it, Merkel knows it, Poland seems to know it. But plenty of MEPs seem clueless. The only British name pushing for it to be rushed through is Nigel Farage – who is not an MP and has neither power nor respect within Westminster – even with the one Ukip MP. There is still a very good chance that the next PM will seek concessions from the EU as a justification for ignoring the referendum and placating the public, therefore it is important that the EU is not needlessly obstinate. The ‘democracy’ argument isn’t strong because at 48/52 you’re going to ignore half the country either way, and you might as well do it in such a way as to not shoot your economy in the face. The EU should not be needlessly antagonising the British public.
Thirdly: Everything is absolute chaos here. We have no government and no opposition. We will end up with a new prime minister within a few months, we will probably end up with a new opposition leader in the same timescale, and we will therefore also end up with a new cabinet and shadow cabinet. A general election later this year is definitely on the cards, which means a different set of MPs. The short term situation here is extremely volatile, but will settle over the next few months. Nobody should be making any assumptions until it does.