EU’re Out, Apparently


Well that’s that then. Votes cast and counted and the UK, by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% have voted to Leave the European Union. The long, fractious and never really embracing journey that the UK has been on shall now enter a new phase. I can only guess as to where it’ll end up.

You may have heard by now though that the vote across the nations and regions of our “One Nation” was not homogeneous.

EU Results

England and Wales voted to Leave. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain. It represents yet another rejection by Scotland of “UK” politics and I believe that, as previously stated, a second independence referendum is now inevitable. The First Minister has herself confirmed this morning that the Scottish Government is now going to actively pursue one whilst also seeking to negotiate directly with the EU to try to preserve and protect our relationship. I do not believe that we will find that door to be particularly tightly closed.

As for Leave, once they’ve dealt with the resignation of David Cameron, probably a few key allies too, and have taken over the Tory party they’ll have to get into the grit of actually disengaging with the EU.

The EU Commission has already made it clear, understandably, that they would prefer Article 50 to be triggered as soon as possible so that they can get the whole business done and dusted. Leave, however, are still trying to be cagey. Some of the talking heads in the media today are still even hinting at an “alternative” plan like a Vienna Convention type disengagement. The big problem with that idea is that, even if it’s possible, it can be vetoed by any of the remaining 27 states. If the EU insists that Article 50 and a formal discussion is the way to go then it can indeed insist that it shall be.

It’s still very far from certain what the UK’s future relationship with Europe will actually be once all is done and dusted.

Indeed, there’s an outside chance that a Brexit may not yet happen. It could be that the Tory leadership changeover results in a General Election…which the Tories then lose. Labour, especially one which actively campaigned on the point, could well ignore the referendum result. At this point I wouldn’t discount any possibility, no matter how unlikely.

Assuming though that Boris Johnson and chums take the reigns and we go through Article 50 and Brexit happens, there’s still several possibilities (ranging from EFTA, through a set of Swiss style biateral treaties, through a CETA/TTIP type deal and out to the “default” WTO regulations only) which I outlined here.

I’m particularly disturbed by some of the rhetoric which stuck. Lord Ashcroft’s on-the-day polling found a solid correlation between likelihood of voting Leave and support for the argument that it would help “Take Back Control”.


I mentioned in my article on sovereignty that countries which pin themselves to the idea of national level politics, especially to the point of it becoming a geas, can bind themselves into the Globalisation Trilemma. If, as I suspect they will, Leave use their win to forge towards turning the UK into some kind of Free Market paradise then the concept of democratic politics could find itself severely compromised.

Speaking of the Free Market, it was in the financial world that the most “excitement” of election night was to be found. The polls, public and private, in the days running up to voting day had starting indicating a Remain vote. This had pushed the value of the GBP up significantly as traders started “buying the rumour“. When the Sunderland vote came in though it was the first indication that things were not going to go well for Remain. That one result caused a panic sell in the markets which did not improve as the night went on. By morning, the “Great” British pound had fallen to the weakest point seen since 1985 and, after a morning-after retracement, had lost 8% of its value. This is the worst single day hit that the pound has ever taken, twice as deep as plunge as 1992’s “Black Wednesday” and the third deepest single day hit ANY major currency has taken in modern times. History books shall be written on this point alone.

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Currency fall

It should be of very careful note that against the Euro, the Pound lost about 10% of its value compared to 2015. This is important because the UK had a trade deficit with the EU of about £68 billion in 2015. Assuming all things other than currency being equal then that trade deficit could be expected to rise to £75 billion simply because it’s now more expensive to import goods and services from Europe.

This difference in trade, around £7 billion, represents almost exactly the amount that Leave claimed that we’d “save” in net contributions to the EU. There may well be no gains, no money for the NHS or anything else that was promised. I hope I’m wrong. Because if I’m not, the areas which most voted Leave are also the areas most likely to be dependent on the EU for trade. They will be the areas most reliant on a good deal and/or economic plan for what comes after.


As for Scotland, it’s looking now almost inevitable that this result will hasten another go at an independence referendum and, this time, not only will it not be called until we’re ready but it’s looking rather like a lot of former No voters who had been promised that their vote would ensure their EU membership have now seen that whisked away. It has been enough to convince many that independence is now the best option ahead of Scotland. If you happen to be one of them, Welcome.

The Greens and the SNP, will now be exploring all options to protect and preserve our EU relationship. We’re in very uncertain times now with few precedents to guide us so what form this will all take is a matter of pure speculation.

My own preferred option could take the form of direct negotiations between the Scottish Government and the EU resulting in some kind of deal whereby if an independence referendum is held and won in the period before formal Brexit then a newly independent Scotland could “inherit” the UK’s old seat with no loss of continuity. Of course, this would require the co-operation of the Westminster government to allow such negotiations to take place or to even acknowledge that the result in Scotland is significant. It would be a tragedy of democracy if we were simply ignored.

I’ve got no easy answers for the next few months, or years. I’m as much an unwilling passenger as everyone else who voted Remain yesterday. I’ll try my best to work out where we’re going just as soon as it becomes apparent though. And who knows. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get off early.


Are EU In or Out? – Part 5: The Issues – Brexit Negotiations

Qualifier: The following article shall cite political views which represent, to the best of my understanding, the positions of the Official Remain and Leave campaigns. As such they may not necessarily represent the views held by myself or by any organisations or political parties of which I am a member. My own views shall be indicated throughout.

Are EU In or Out? – Part 1: What is The EU? can be read here

Are EU In or Out? – Part 2: A Brief History of Brexit can be read here

Are EU In or Out? – Part 3: The Issues – Immigration can be read here

Are EU In or Out? – Part 4: The Issues – Trade, Economy and Finance can be read here

Brexit Club2

Brexit Negotiations

One of the more contentious moments of the 2014 Scottish Independence campaign came about within the discussions over “what comes next?”. The post-vote negotiations over the unstitching of Scotland from the rest of the UK would have represented challenge at least on par with the separation of Ireland or the decolonisation process, if not greater. This may not have been helped by the fact that the British Union does not contain a formal legal mechanism for constituent member nations to leave, the Edinburgh Agreement and all that came after was essentially invented ad hoc. In contrast, the European Union does have a formal leaving mechanism in the form of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, albeit that this mechanism has not been put into practice and was drafted only after the experience of Greenland’s process of leaving the European Communities in 1985. As this paper points out though, the comparison between Greenland and any UK leaving process is unlikely to be more than superficially similar as Greenland’s economic and political interaction with the EC at the time revolved very substantially around their fishing industry whereas the UK is far more economically and politically integrated.

The polls are tight. Neck-and-neck, even. Far too close to call and we’re only a couple of weeks away now. I think we owe it to ourselves to consider the possibility of a Brexit vote and to ask just what the Official Leave campaign wants to get out of their desired result, whether or not it’d be easy – or even possible – to achieve and if it actually chimes with the desires of many of their voters.

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Are EU In or Out? – Part 4: The Issues – Trade, Economy and Finance

Qualifier: The following article shall cite political views which represent, to the best of my understanding, the positions of the Official Remain and Leave campaigns. As such they may not necessarily represent the views held by myself or by any organisations or political parties of which I am a member. My own views shall be indicated throughout.

Are EU In or Out? – Part 1: What is The EU? can be read here

Are EU In or Out? – Part 2: A Brief History of Brexit can be read here

Are EU In or Out? – Part 3: The Issues – Immigration can be read here


Active, Pending and Proposed Free Trade Agreements involving the EU

Trade, Economy and Finance

If immigration has been the big push card for Leave then the Economy has been the same for the official Remain campaign. Once again, as in the 2014 Scottish Independence Campaign, nothing says “Project Fear” like that Great Leap into the Unknown that comes with trying to predict the state of the economy after a shock event like Brexit (Little tip. In this era of rampant financial speculation, if anyone could actually predict the economy, there wouldn’t be one because that person would now have ALL the money). Similarly, Leave, whilst fighting a much weaker campaign in this respect, are promoting the fear of overburdening and uncontrollable regulation which is holding the UK back from its true potential. Of course, the parallels with the 2014 indyref abound on both sides. It certainly shall be interesting if and when a second indyref comes round and the words spoken by several prominent figureheads involved in this current campaign end up held against them (of course, this may well happen to unwary activists on our side too)

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We Need To Talk About: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)


What is it?

 The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), also known in the US as the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the United States of America and the European Union. It is largely based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed between the USA, Canada and Mexico in 1994 and is a cousin to various other trade agreements being negotiated between the US and other states such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

What’s so good about it?

 Proponents argue that TTIP will eliminate trading tariffs and other trade barriers between the EU and US and will allow the harmonisation of health and safety laws and other regulations ensuring that goods and services exported to either or both blocs can be made to comply with regulations in all areas. They argue that this will bring economic growth and increased trade.

What’s so bad about it?

 From a trading tariff standpoint, it is hard to see how this agreement will bring much in the way of benefit. Due to prior trading agreements organised via the World Trade Organisation, tariffs between the EU and US average at a little under 3% so there is little to be achieved by eliminating them. Instead the concern with TTIP lies mainly in its focus on non tariff related matters.

 One major concern lies in the idea of “harmonising” the likes of health and safety law. The Greens, along with our partners in the European Free Alliance, strongly oppose any measure which would bring historically more stringent European health and safe regulation “down” to historically more lax American standards. As an example, there are currently large divergences between the US and EU with regards to which chemicals are allowed to be used in the agricultural sectors. The EU currently bans the use of growth hormones in meat and milk production whereas they are in common use in the US. Unless TTIP acts to ban such hormones in US (unlikely given the strength of the agribusiness lobby with American politics) then it is difficult to see how forced “harmonisation” of these laws would do anything other than open the EU to such produce. Similar arguments extend to subjects like the production, regulation and labelling of products containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

 Similarly, one of the arguments levelled by proponents of unconventional gas and “fracking” is that disasters and pollution caused by lax US safety standards could not happen here. If TTIP acts to bring EU standards down to US standards then this argument is undermined.

 This example leads to another major concern of TTIP. Draft proposals leaked to the public indicate that corporations would be given the power to legally challenge any member state which acted against the principals of TTIP and maintained any real or perceived “barrier to trade” against the corporation. This could include breaking the prohibition of chemicals banned in the EU but legal in the US within the agricultural or chemical sectors mentioned.

 These legal challenges, known as Investor-to-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), have occasionally been seen within countries such as challenges launched against the Slovakian government when it attempted to renationalise its health insurance sector or against the Egyptian government when it attempted to increase the national minimum wage. Under TTIP the scope for companies to use ISDS’s could be greatly expanded. For instance, this could mean that American private health insurance companies could attempt to sue for “access” to our NHS market and any attempt to keep the healthcare of our citizens in public hands could be deemed a “barrier to trade”. At the very least, the possibly lengthy and complex legal battles would prove an expensive drain of time and tax-payers money.

 Finally, another particular concern about TTIP is the fact that all of this negotiation is being done behind closed doors and away from the democratic process. The UK government and our MEPs have very little direct access even to the documentation of the treaty and many of the concerns raised have only become apparent after documents were leaked to the public. Without proper democratic scrutiny and transparency this treaty simply cannot address the needs of the 500 million+ citizens to be affected by it. A treaty of this magnitude simply cannot be decided by a few industry lobbyists.

What can we do about it?

 Education is key. So far TTIP has seen vanishingly little media coverage so many people are still unaware of even its existence never mind the implications of the treaty if it were to come into force as it currently stands. Several papers have been referenced at the end of this article explaining TTIP in more detail and anyone interested in the topic should certainly read them and share them with others.

 Whilst this treaty is largely occurring way above even National level politics, the impact of it will be felt at all levels. Lobbying your local representatives at all levels of government (i.e. MSPs, MPs and MEPs) to express your interest and ask them to pass your concerns on is vital. Seeking their opinions and where they or their party’s differ from yours can also be powerful, especially in an election year.

 Finally, you can get involved in the grassroots activism. Many online petitions exist and can be signed and many social media sites are frequently used to seek out and share information. Joining your local political party or activist group can also help you get more directly involved in campaigning for reform of this important treaty.

Further Reading

European Green Party Position Paper — “TTIP – Too many untrustworthy promises and real risks”

Green European Foundation — EU Trade Policy: analysing the impact of TTIP.

The Greens/EFA Group — “TTIP: no agreement between the EU and the US without high standards for the environment and for consumers”

Anna Meyer and Jessica Walton — “A Citizen’s Guide to TTIP”

Friends of the Earth – The TTIP of the anti-democracy iceberg

UCU – TTIP: What it is and why we should be worried

Unison – TTIP: A Unison Briefing

British Embassy Washington – TTIP and the Fifty States

European Commission – TTIP: The Economic Analysis Explained