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E.S.C.A - Chapter 3: BREXIT OR NOT BREXIT?
Terms in this set (85)
Even before David Cameron was the Prime Minister of the UK
he was in opposition to the EU and adopted a more distant attitude to the EU.
David Cameron became PM in 2010 when
the conservative party won the general elections. However, he became the leader of the opposition when he became the leader of the conservative party in 2005.
When he was still in opposition, David Cameron decided to
withdraw the support of the British Conservative Party for the centre-right (Christian Democrat) European People's Party in the European Parliament.
In the European parliament, there are European members belonging to parties in their own countries. But,
they do not in the European parliament as a member of a French party. Members of the European parliament make ideologies groups with members from different countries
The Christian democrat European people's party is
a group of the European Parliament, which is quite centre-right. In this group you can find for instance : members of the conservative party in the UK, members of the right-wing party in France, etc.
David Cameron decided to withdraw the support to the The Christian democrat European people's party because
he considered that this party was committed to federalist principles.
Then David Cameron allied to another groupe
a small far-right party, the European Conservatives and Reformists. Doing that, some European member states had the impression that he was showing a certain disdain for the EU.
In 2009, David Cameron slightly changed his position
It was too late for the Lisbon Treaty and could not been undone. Instead of calling for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, he promised to introduce a REFERENDUM LOCK.
The Referendum Lock
whereby no major new future transfer of power to the EU, or treaty changes, can take place without the peoples' consent.
=> surprising since the fundamental principle: parliamentary sovereignty.
In the past, referendum in the UK were really exceptional because
they were going against the principle of parliamentary sovereignty => it's a way of cutting of the authority of parliament. Usually, a referendum is not binding
In the UK, all the parties said that they would respect the outcome of the referendum even if it's not legally binding. Plus, during the referendum in 2016, there was a gap between public opinion and members of Parliament
Majority of the public opinion wanted to get out from the EU Majority of members of Parliament wanted to remain.
Once David Cameron had become the PM of the UK, after 2010, he delivered his promised thanks to
2011 European Act which established this referendum lock.
David Cameron entered a bilateral defence pact, exclusively with the French
sharing of military equipment and nuclear technology. => source of division within the EU and quite unusual.
March 2011 : they argued about EU military intervention in Libya.
The intervention was decided by the United Nation Security Council, also supported by the French but opposed by Germany. To some extent, we can say that the UK is at the origin of these tensions.
In December 2011, David Cameron blackmailed the EU by threatening
to veto a unanimous vote to change the treaties to deal with the Euro crisis (Subprimes). The EU was searching for a common solution and a common policy. In order for UK to vote EU had to drop its Financial Services Directive => Deal.
He failed. EU was not impressed, and they found another way of going ahead. Realized the UK was not as powerful as he first thought. The Financial Services Directive remained in place.
2012: David Cameron makes clear the fact that he was
unwilling to give up any more of MThatcher's rebate.
What was the rebate about ?
when she became the PM in the 1980s, MT denounced the fact that the UK was giving too much money to the European Community for the budget and she obtained a rebate. When Tony Blair was the PM in the 1990s, he accepted to give up 20% of the rebate obtained by MT.
2013: David Cameron challenged the new EU budget proposals.
Following the decision he didn't want to give up any more rebate, he insisted on the fact that he didn't want this increase in the EU budget.
At the last moment, he was backed by the Germans. => the new budget was then smaller than the previous one
The climax of these tensions came in January 2013
in a speech that has became famous, David Cameron promised an IN/OUT referendum on the EU (by 2017 at the least) if the Conservatives won the next election in 2015.
David Cameron had 2 objectives
- To get to win voters for the election.
- To enter into new negotiations with the EU to draw back sovereignty from the EU. He wasn't willing to get out from the EU at the time. He really wanted to negotiate and put pressure on it !
In 2014, David Cameron opposed Jean-Claud Juncker
whom he regarded as too federalist.
Why did David Cameron decided to organize this referendum if he wasn't opposed to the EU ?
Within Britain : in Britain, he was really under pressure from right-wing Conservative Eurosceptics => members from his own party.
Also had to deal with the pressure put by UKIP, a political party created by Nigel Farage and asking for Brexit (UK Independence Party). The main argument being to defend British sovereignty and the currency.
UKIP was winning more and more voters usually voting for David Cameron conservative party
This party won the 2014 European Elections with 24 seats (27.5% of the votes) in the European Parliament.
That's why David Cameron needed more voters and promised to hold a referendum to attract them back.
The referendum question was
"Should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
In November 2015, David Cameron decided to define 4 key ways to change the EU in a letter he sent to the President of European Council
- The idea of integration : limits to federal integration and to the possibility for the UK to opt-out from the EU to form an even closer union.
- The idea of benefits : limit access to benefits to EU migrants.
- Sovereignty: give greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation.
- Eurozone VS the rest : explicit recognition that € was not the only currency of the EU. The UK was not a member of the Eurozone but it wasn't the only country without Euro (Denmark).
Since September 2015, following the victory of the Conservative party for the general election, it was obvious
there was going to be this referendum.
Who wanted the UK to leave the EU?
A fair number of Conservative MPs
Several Labour MPs
Who wants the UK to stay in the EU ?
SNP (Scottish National Party)
Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist party)
The referendum was held the
23 June 2016.
51.9% voters wanted to leave meanwhile
48.9% wanted to remain in the EU.
There was an impression that a majority of political parties wanted to
remain in the EU
that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted in majority to remain in the EU. However, as England dominates the UK in terms of inhabitants
even if these 2 nations voted to remain in the EU, the overall result was a majority of people voting to leave the EU.
The Brexit was then decided without any agreement with Scotland since
the British gov insisted on the fact that the member state of the EU was the UK and not Scotland, and what mattered overall was the "UK vote results".
This decision had an impact on Scotland and Northern Ireland because they
weren't really happy to be taken by force outside the EU.
The answer found by the Scottish Parliament was to ask for another referendum
not for EU membership, but for independence, allowing them to get back to the EU as an independent state.
For Northern Ireland, a referendum to ask for
a reunification with the Republic of Ireland. Since the Republic of Ireland is a member of the EU, then Northern Ireland would be automatically back in the EU.
David Cameron resigned following the Brexit vote, and so there was a new Prime Minister
Theresa May, still a member of the conservative party since the party had the majority in Parliament.
She could have been a bit surprising as a PM because she also campaigned
in favor of remaining in the EU, her objective was to try to negotiate the best Brexit deal as possible or what was often called "soft Brexit," that is to say not too difficult for the UK.
Theresa May was in charge of negotiating Brexit, and so it was decided to set up a new department in the British government
In July 2016, the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) was created.
Like a ministry; there was a Secretary of State, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, for instance, and there was the 'Brexit Secretary' leading.
David Davis first led it; he was responsible for overseeing missions relating to the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
It turned out that these negotiations were not going to be simple and not just with the EU but
also within the UK
Theresa May, as the PM, was in conflict with the British Parliament on a very simple issue
to trigger Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the Brexit process.
The Lisbon Treaty was the one that stated how
a member state of the EU could get out of the EU.
There was a conflict, tensions between the Prime Minister and the Parliament
The PM considered she was rightful triggering Art.50, whereas Parliament considered it necessary to have a vote in the British Parliament for a simple reason: parliamentary sovereignty.
In the British Constitutional settlement, there is no separation in theory between government and Parliament
All the members of the government are members of the Parliament
The Supreme Court of the UK gave the decision on the 14th of January 2017
It was clearly said that Parliament had to decide. They decided to defend this principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
24/01/2017: in a context of protests in cities, especially in London
People say no to Brexit, but also, people were asking for this vote by Parliament.
Why people opposed to Brexit wanted this vote by Parliament?
They hoped that Parliament would not vote for the triggering of Art.50 and would stop the Brexit process as this referendum was not legally binding. Following the decision of the Supreme Court, there was a vote.
March 2017: Theresa May was allowed by the British Parliament to send the letter to the EU (President Tusk) to trigger Art. 50 and so to start this 2-year long process
Once the process is started there is a bid of 2 years of negotiations before the EU's exit. It means that the UK was supposed to be out of the EU by March 2019.
Very quickly in Scotland on 13/03/2017, that is to say precisely when May triggered Art. 50 there was a vote in the Scottish Parliament to ask for
a second independence referendum.
27/06/2017: Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, announced her decision to delay this referendum on Scotland's independence until Autumn 2018
This referendum has not yet taken place. It was decided to delay first of all to allow negotiations for Brexit before having a second referendum. The objective was to see which sort of Brexit was going to be negotiated before a referendum.
15/05/2018: to show their opposition, the Scottish Parliament refused
to vote for the EU Withdrawal Bill. In theory should have blocked but not in practice. The British Parliament decided not to respect the Scottish Parliament's decision not to vote.
When a bill is debated in the British Parliament if this bill can have an impact on Scotland or Wales or Nothern Ireland, this bill has
to be approved by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and Northern Ireland assembly before becoming an act of Parliament in theory.
After the triggering of Art.50, the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, decided to insist on the serious economic and political consequences of Brexit for Wales
Especially the isolation of Wales and even more if Scotland one day becomes independent.
Carwyn Jones decided to ask for a reform of the British Constitution and the creation of a federal system (as the US) to preserve the Union.
Two major proposals:
A federal model for the UK (splitting England into smaller units)
The Independence for Wales (red dragon symbol of Wales)
June 2017: snap election
because Theresa May wanted bigger majority to negotiate the Brexit more easily.
The Parliament authorized the election to happen in 2017 (which was supposed to take place in 2020 originally).
TM and the Conservative Party insisted on the fact it was a Brexit election but the Labour Party insisted on the fact it was not just a Brexit election, that there were many other subjects to be treated.
not a single party obtained the majority in Parliament. Conservatives got 318 seats, and the majority was at 326 seats, so they were n°1 but did not get majority.
Theresa May had a small majority before, and then she was left with no majority at all
it was a failure.
What were the solutions Theresa May had?
- To make a coalition with another party, which she refused to do.
- To strike an alliance (less formal)
Theresa May stroke an alliance with
the democratic unionists, which had 10 seats and therefore gave her the majority; it meant she depended on this party to get here laws to pass, so it was a weak position.
September, 12th 2017: EU withdrawal bill voted in the House of Commons.
Scotland and Wales were not okay with it, because of the "power grab" of Brussel's repatriated powers which were going against the devolution settlement; most of the powers coming back from Brussels would be going back to London = not fair because many of these powers were powers dealing with devolved matters
December 2017: deal with the EU transition period until
31 December 2020, if necessary December 2021. (It lasted until December 2020).
May, 16th 2018
EU withdrawal Bill voted in the House of Lords
June, 12th 2018: the Bill went back in the House of Commons
to agree on the exact same terms, there are different readings in the different parts of legislative power
July, 6th 2018: Chequers' plan presented
a presentation of a possible deal for Brexit, according to Theresa May and her government. She wanted a soft deal, not making many differences with membership of the EU. This decision led to the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis who wanted a hard brexit.
September 2018: proposition
rejected by President Tusk (the EU president).
End of 2018: no deal found with the EU
and nearly the end of the period of 2 years to negotiate Brexit (deadline: Mach 2019). Theresa May had to ask for delays twice.
11 April 2019: Brexit delayed until
31 October 2019.
May 23rd 2019: European elections
UK was supposed to have left, but they were still there because of the delay, so they were allowed to vote for the European elections. So this was taken as another referendum for Brexit because they could vote for parties for or against Brexit. For these elections was created a new party, the Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage (from UKIP).
The Brexit party came
n°1 with 29 seats in the European Parliament. Turnout was low (36.9% of participation).
May 24th 2019: Theresa May announced
she was resigning as PM and leader of the Conservative Party, because of the European results; she did not want to negotiate a hard Brexit.
July, 23rd 2019: Boris Johnson was elected
new leader of the Conservatives.
July, 24th 2019: Boris Johnson was elected new PM
with a new government, fully in favor of Brexit.
31st October 2019: on the deadline of the first Brexit delay, Johnson made his first speech
He said he would make the Brexit happen, with or without a deal, to make UK "the greatest place on Earth".
August 2019: Johnson asked the Queen to suspend Parliament for a longer period of time than usual (until October 14th). Why?
- He asked the queen because that is her power
- He asked for 2 months because he knew he did not have a majority in parliament so he wanted to negotiate without parliament blocking his ideas.
The House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, declared it was antidemocratic.
September, 29th 2019: the Supreme Court of the UK decided Johnson's decision was unlawful and unjustified
the Parliament was not suspended after all.
Some people thought it even put in question the role of the queen.
October 2019: Parliament voted an act rejecting a no-deal Brexit
it was a way of saying "there won't be Brexit if there is no deal", it was kind of a comeback to Johnson who had said "there will be Brexit whatever the cost, even if there is no deal".
This decision led to a new delay for Brexit: from 31 October to 31 January 2020.
November 2019: Parliament accepted the holding of a new general election in the UK which happened in December 2019
They all agreed but for different reasons (Conservative to have a majority, Labour to have a soft Brexit).
So Johnson could go on easily with Brexit because he obtained a large majority. Why did he have such a big majority?
- People were fed up with Brexit, they wanted it done, even the ones originally against it
- Johnson was a populist, so he was popular, he made many promises ("making UK great again")
- Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, had an unclear position on Brexit, because he was genuinely opposed to the European community, but the Labour Party was officially in favor of the EU. He had promised to hold a new referendum on Brexit, but it was not really clear how he would do it.
December 31, 2020: Brexit at last? Yes and no
The official date, but it was still a transition period, it did not change much. The details were still in negotiation.
Brexit was declared.
But the pandemic arrived and the Brexit deal was not finalized by
the beginning of December.
Near Christmas, in December 2020, a Brexit deal was finally found.
Northern Ireland is in a special situation, because it is still following all the EU rules, even though it is not part of it anymore.
It is because of the proximity with the Republic of Ireland; Northern Ireland was to leave with Brexit, but regarding borders with the Republic of Ireland, it was not really possible and would have led to many tensions.
It was decided in the Brexit Deal that Northern Ireland would have a special status
making it following the rules of EU.
It has created a difference in the UK between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (a sort of border created there).
It is now more difficult to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of UK than between France and Northern Ireland.
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