A Letter to the British Friends on Brexit

by P. Kamil Rosiak

December 2018

I’ve been observing attentively the Brexit process since the night of 23 June 2016, the night of leave/remain vote.

I read many articles and books on the subject, I was watching several debates in the UK Parliament and discussed the topic with hundreds of wise men and women in Britain and other Member States.

And I appreciate the British administration, politicians and government trying to struggle with such a difficult problem like Brexit – the divorce after 45 years of rough (and sometimes irregular) but largely successful marriage.

I am not a man to teach Brits of democracy and efficient governance. I simply have profound respect for this nation and its achievements.

At the same time I feel very sorry that – as far as Brexit is concerned – its leaders are going in the wrong direction. Because Brexit isn’t a healthy baby to be delivered.

Brexit is a poisoned chalice (in Poland we would say “kukulcze jajo”, an unwilling cuckoo’s egg placed by its legitimate mother in the nest of another bird). Contrary to what can be heard repeatedly from UK leaders, my deep belief is that it cannot be delivered successfully because it will make UK weaker and less attractive in a globalised world.

The recent confidence vote on PM Theresa May within the Conservative Party shows that the government has assured 200 Tories’ votes supporting the current version of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). It means that in order to ratify the WA, the government would need to get help from at least hundred deputies from other political groups and to convince another quarter of conservatives. This seems to be very uncertain.

From the EU side there is no willingness to renegotiate the deal and especially of the backstop clause. The latter may be explained in a more detailed way and supplemented with another political declaration but the chance to influence the legal text at this stage is slim. Moreover, the time factor is crucial as the end of the 2-year period specified in Article 50 TEU is approaching.

In continental Europe people feel tired and a bit bored with the Brexit debate and are starting to await impatiently the final decisions coming from London. Especially since (as recently explained by the Court of Justice) it is a unilateral decision of the Member State notifying its intention to leave the EU if it wishes to stay or to go.

In this very awkward and complicated situation where the government is not able to attract sufficient support for its plans and most of the deputies do not feel convinced voting for the current version of the WA, the only way to avoid the possible crash resulting from the no-deal scenario would be to give back the decision to the people. The second referendum, with the appropriate threshold introduced to the EU Referendum Act to make it binding (for example by introducing a „double lock” of a majority of voters and all four countries constituting the union: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland voting for the same solution; or imposing a minimum number of percentage points between two solutions – e.g. 10% – ensuring clear preference within the constituencies) would be the clear answer of the political milieu to these threats.

However, in order to organise such a referendum a new leader has to emerge on the British scene with sufficient courage and seriousness to gather a sufficient majority of the deputies ready to overcome political divisions and ready to take the risk of acting against the will of their party leaders.

Is there anybody to fulfil such a role?

If you don’t try you will never know…