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Professor Gerard Delanty Questions the Brexit Endgame

Posted on: December 4, 2018

Brexit has got more people involved in politics than ever, we share our author Gerard Delanty's opinion as the debate unfolds. Gerard Delanty is a Professor of Sociology and Social & Political Thought, University of Sussex, Brighton.

Want more Brexit content? Find Director of LeaderShape, Duncan Enright's feature on Why Brexit has gone so badly for Britain, here.


Brexit Endgame

Written December 2018

Now that all options are on the table, including a variation of the so-called Norway model and Remain within the EU, it is imperative that some consideration is given to what the current model of EU membership allows in relation to immigration. It is a myth to believe that freedom of movement is unrestricted.

In view of the centrality of immigration to Brexit, and to a point that the government is willing to sacrifice the economy to cutting immigration, more consideration should be given to what ‘free movement’ allows and what it does not allow.

Within the EU citizens are free to movement form one country to another. However, it is not entirely unlimited. In legal theory an EU citizen moving from one country to another must be able to secure work or show that they have the means to sustain themselves. Directive 2004/38/EC asserts the limitations on freedom of movement on EU citizens who do not have employment or the means to support themselves. One of these conditions is having sufficient resources so as not to become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State.

Now, this restriction has rarely, if at all, been implemented by member states and would of course be a complex and heavy administrative burden to impose and would probably require ID cards.

The UK government, despite the toxify of immigration never considered it. However the administrative and cost burden is now diminished in light of the nightmare of almost any kind of a hard Brexit. While implementing such limits on free movement, entirely permissible within EU law, will not satisfy the hardline Brexiters (who of course will not be appeased by anything), such a measure could go some way to making more palatable a soft Brexit (which will have to be a variation of the Norway model) or remaining within the EU.

So, while immigration from EU countries cannot be stopped so long as the UK is a member of the single market, it can be controlled. This may be in end be more impression management, but then that is exactly what the government’s immigration policy is anyway. It is nonetheless a matter of considerable puzzlement that this mechanism is not given any consideration in discussions on Brexit. There is probably scope to extend its application within the existing structures of the Single Market.


The Case for a Second Referendum

Written January 2019

The case for a second referendum is now stronger than ever. Let’s look at the arguments for and against. These arguments are neither proLeave nor proRemain.

The main argument against a 2nd referendum is that the referendum of 16th June 2016 was decisive and it is only a matter of the government implementing the so-called will of the people. The argument rests on the false claim that the 2016 referendum was decisive. It was not. There was only a small margin for Leave (3.8 per cent) in a non-binding referendum in which many irregularities on the Leave side occurred.The government initiated a leave process without any consideration of the problems or what form it would finally take or even if it were possible at all. Over two years later we can now see the biggest problem, namely that the referendum asked an open-ended question. If a decision was made to Leave the EU, it was not irreversible, decisive or clear in terms of what Leave entails. It is therefore reasonable to have a second referendum now in light of clarity of the options and the serious consequences of those options.

The second argument is that the Referendum was a major exercise in democracy and that any further deliberation is contrary to the democratic spirit. This is false. Democracy is open ended. Referendums are only one instrument of democratic politics and can easily produce anti-democratic outcomes. In this case, the government claims to have a carte blanche to interpret the outcome. It cannot be allowed to do this. The democratic process must include deliberation on the outcome of the referendum, which can include further referendums. Referendums, where they concern complex issues with more than yes/no choices, can be arranged to facilitate more complex modes of public consultation.

The claim that a second referendum would be equally indecisive as the first one is certainly false. A second referendum, if properly conducted, would present clearly defined choices on Leaving the EU, which have to include remaining in the EU. Furthermore, since June 2016 there has been considerable public debate on the outcome of the Referendum and consequently the public is more informed on the choices and consequences. Remain voters would be more likely to accept an unfavourable outcome that the pursuit of an arbitrary interpretation of the previous referendum. The most logical and democratic way forward would be for the government to put its case to the people before putting it to parliament. If the people voted for it, then parliament would almost certainly have to vote to endorse the outcome. This would make far more sense than a Remain/Leave vote. Leave voters would not be able to claim it was a repeat of the first Referendum and Leave voters would have to accept that an outcome to implement a specific leave process.

The argument that a second referendum would be divisive is meaningless. Whatever happens it will be divisive. Following the previous point, a properly conducted second referendum on clear options as opposed to a vague case for Leave would probably be less divisive than any other course, such as the government’s proposal or a No Deal outcome. The government’s deal will in any case involve years of negotiation and conflict over the controversial back-stop.

Finally, it is clearly the case that parliament is grid-locked. The only way to release the grid-lock is for the government’s proposal to be put to a popular vote. It is the logical outcome of the disastrous decision to have a referendum in the first place.