Freedom through BREXIT: delivering the freedom to choose to be different

osborne-cameron-457647The British political class hates Brexit.

When one of their own, Boris, says he wants it, he comes in for the ‘treatment’ – a ‘no-holds-barred’ personal attack by a Tory columnist in a national newspaper.  David Cameron has not exactly been kind to colleagues who take a different view.  His party shows again its ‘nasty’ nature when it feels threatened. 

All of this has an important damaging consequence: the British elite – and UK officials – view BREXIT entirely negatively.  This means they will not think about the positives: that is a great shame because we think BREXIT can be a massive positive for the UK – and even for the rest of the EU.

How so?

To answer that vital question, you first have to understand how any country leaves the EU – which is by applying article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.  This envisages a negotiation, taking up to 2 years, which then has to be endorsed by the European Parliament.  During that time, the country concerned is STILL an EU member.

This means that all EU laws and rules – running to many, many thousands of pages, all still apply.  Moreover, many of these have been included in international treaties or through national domestic legislation.  All of these still remain part of the law even after exit until changed by ‘due process’ ie domestic legislation changes the law.

Although disappointing for those who want quickly to change the rules, in practice this offers important benefits for all concerned.  There is no period of legal vacuum when one law is lost and another not yet in place.  Contracts and agreements remain legally binding – and this applies to everything governed by law which, in modern societies, is almost everything a state does.

This is how BREXIT becomes an opportunity to improve lives.

Loosening or abolishing requirements can be easier than tightening them.  That is because you are changing the rules to provides new freedoms and offer new choices.  But you do not have to.  Until you have done so, the current law applies.

So, during an exit negotiation, there is major opportunity to examine the logic of the rules as they currently are.  

Are they needed?  

Do they work as intended?  

How might they be improved?  

Can they be simplified? 

Can the paperwork being reduced?  

Can the procedures be made more forgiving?

Is it all worth the work and effort involved?

Asking and answering such questions is potentially of benefit to everybody – both the UK and the remaining 27.

If negotiation discussions are undertaken with the clear intention of finding a better way of doing things, especially to trade goods and services, then it could and should give rise to comment such as ‘well, wouldn’t that make sense for the other 27 as well?’ or ‘would that also help trade between, say, Holland and Germany or Italy?’   

In short, the requirements of BREXIT negotiation can and should allow a sensible re-examination of whether arrangements first developed in the twentieth century in a very different world remain the best approach more than 50 years later.

To negotiate effectively and to produce a positive outcome, you need to understand what you are expecting to gain.  The sovereignty we want to get back is about restoring freedom of action in the face of requirements to conform.  EU ‘harmonisation’ has always involved the imposition of uniformity to a single recipe or blueprint.

The negotiation delivers the chance to examine the question whether the uniformity is needed?  Or can we allow differences which are then mutually recognised as delivering a similar result – it is a negotiation with a philosophy of ‘vive le difference’.   

A rational government exercises its freedom when it believes that by doing things differently or adding new choices, the result offers real advantages.

These should be assessed on a case by case basis. Where there is no advantage or identifiable benefit in not using the existing EU approach, then a sensible British government – and its negotiators – will continue to do it the existing EU way.

The freedom to choose to be different does not mean you HAVE to choose to be different, it just means you can if you want to.

This is a practical extension of freedom – one with no downside, provided you are open-minded and mentally flexible enough not to try to be different without it offering an advantage.

In doing all this, the BREXIT negotiating team must talk with real people about their day-to-day experiences – and learn from them about how to get it right for the ‘real world’.  All the while, ensuring vested interests do not hijack the process for their own purposes.

The team might later evolve into an assessment unit with the task of identifying those sectors, laws and regulations which can be made better – made simpler, easier, more comprehensible and less burdensome.

This offers a further massive advantage.

Too few people understand that politicians are first and foremost law-makers.  This has the horrible consequence that they are judged by themselves and others on how many new laws they can introduce.  The way that Tony Blair added massively to the statute book is one example.  The activity of the European Parliament is another. They call it work but so much of it makes things worse not better. So-called Conservative governments and politicians are these days no different.

As a result, year-in year-out, the laws and the tax-code simply go on getting bigger and more incomprehensible to ordinary people.  Effectiveness is judged simply by how many new laws there are and how much the state meddles in our lives.

Properly handled, the BREXIT negotiation is a unique opportunity to think again about whether all the bureaucracy and paperwork is really necessary and whether it makes the world a better or a worse place to live.

BUT…

all this is only possible if the right people are in the team.  Foreign Office Mandarins quietly ‘batting for the other side’, disappointed politicians who really wanted to remain, second-rate government lawyers who could not ‘make it’ in commercial practice, such people can never produce the best outcome.  The UK does have the right people, including some of the best legal brains in the world working in just a few square miles of the City and central London.  They must provide the expertise to implement the BREXIT opportunity.

Above all, they will understand the way in which too many negotiations become legalistic ‘arms-races’ in which simplicity, practicality and ease of use are lost to clever vested interest who care little for ordinary people and even less for the common good.     

By contrast, if we are clever BREXIT can finally start to reduce the bureaucratic burden which all politicians say they want to lighten but nobody seems to – ever.  And the valuable insights gained could be adopted not just by Britain but by other EU member countries as well.

We are certain that the potential benefits of the right BREXIT negotiation are simply massive!

Ray Finch MEP, Tony Brown EFDD, Roger Bird

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