There is still a somewhat stunned silence around in relation to the referendum results. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where everyone was very vocal about their hatred of the European Union and have not spared their words on the topics of immigration and governance. Yet yesterday, when the results were confirmed and the markets started plummeting, there was a distinct silence around. The resounding feeling quietly expressed was ‘what have we done’. This juxtaposed with the roar on social media from those of us who are linked with academia, raging about lost opportunities, fearing for funding, and like myself, wondering how long it is before us ‘unwanted drains of the society’, the EU migrants, were marched out of the country by Farage and his team. All this was mixed with the Brexit campaigners glee of a victory many did not believe would not happen.
There is so much that could – and will – be said about the campaign and the politics behind it. The discourses on immigration were especially interesting as they dominated the campaign, leaving economic concerns behind. However, for the politically and legally minded, the situation now gets very interesting. The next official step in the process is the activation of Article 50, which in itself poses one rather interesting question in regards to departure of Britain from the EU. David Cameron has stated that the Article should only be activated once the Conservative Party gets a new leader, which is likely to happen in October this year. the EU leaders, however, want Britain out as soon as possible.
What is it that is so interesting about the Article 50? The Lisbon Treaty states as follows:
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
During the process the country withdrawing is not allowed to be present in the negotiations. Those countries that remain decide among their own group the kind of an offer they will put on a table. Although the discourses that can be read across different EU states are concentrating on keeping a close alliance between Britain and the EU even after the split, the question does remain: will Britain be made as an warning, the example of what happens if you leave?
Even with the promise of good relationships and ongoing co-operation, it remains to be seen how the EU will react. The article allows it to essentially dictate what it wants to gain from the process and negotiate out of the earshot of British leaders and representatives. You can almost hear the conversations: ‘they focused on the fear of immigration in the Brexit campaign and want to control borders? Tough, they need to keep the free movement of people if you want a good deal with us?’ Politically, this is the time where diplomacy may be issues with an iron fist in a velvet glove, putting on the thumb screws. And who isn’t to say that Britain will not be made an example to other countries planning rebellion? Being a pioneer in something will guarantee you a place in history, but it will also mean that you are the first to go through a process through trial and error. Will Britain be the proverbial first-born child whose parents discipline him harshly?
Machiavelli stated ‘it is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.’ Time will tell whether the EU will see Britain as the evil man who must be put in his place before he leaves.