“Which Way Out?” Conference (part 1)

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Last Saturday three of the GBO team attended the Bruges Group’s “Which Way Out?” international conference. There were some very interesting points made through the day, so we though we would round up a selection of them.

A reoccurring topic of discussion was the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets out a process by which an EU member state may leave and negotiate a new relationship with the EU. This divided opinion amongst the speakers. Tim Congdon asserted that we should ignore Article 50, instead simply repealing the European Communities Act 1972. Other speakers were more in favour of activating Article 50, though all acknowledged that we could simply leave unilaterally if necessary. Author and anti-EU blogger Richard North highlighted a legal opinion from the EU that there was a pre-existing right to leave the EU. Along with some other speakers, he stressed the advantage of Article 50 is that it requires the other EU states to negotiate with us.

Professor Ivar Raig spoke about the need to establish, in advance, new institutions that should include the USA and Canada, while Professor Roland Vaubel noted that Europe’s past success and prosperity had come about in part because of the competition between its many, diverse nation states.

Ian Milne — who has authored a briefing paper on Article 50 (PDF) — warned the audience that, if we are serious about leaving the EU, we need to deal with the boring mechanics of how we manage our exit. He proposed that, after leaving, the UK should create the Ministry for EU Transitional Affairs (META). This temporary ministry would manage the huge and complicated task of disentangling ourselves from the accumulated mass of EU law and treaties. One telling aspect was the suggestion that we would need to employ foreigners to manage international trade issues, since the UK now has no experience of occupying its own seat at the WTO and similar bodies.

Kieran Bailey, who at 15 is the youngest shortlisted candidate for the Brexit Prize, said that he did not personally favour leaving, believing that we should first attempt a renegotiation. However he endorsed the idea of a robust plan for leaving the EU as an essential “life insurance policy”, which might be a useful analogy if you find yourself debating someone pro-renegotiation!

Part two of our report will cover the day’s final session, featuring journalist Mary Ellen Synon and the celebrated eurosceptic double-act of Christopher Booker and Richard North.

James Harvard, Campaign Manager

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