If the voters are to be believed, and if they haven’t changed their minds since yesterday, Britain is out of the EU. However, there’s one question I’m asking myself: WHO will actually do the deed?
Let me explain. Despite yesterday’s vote, the UK isn’t actually out of the EU yet. In order to achieve that, the British government must announce the UK wishes to leave the EU and request the application of Article 50 of [insert correct treaty name here].
That means that an individual politician, likely the prime minister, will have to go to some sort of European summit and officially state all of that. Cameron could do it next Tuesday, but already indicated he won’t.
This politician, likely the Tory leader, will subsequently go into the next elections with a “I got us out of the EU” bull’s eye painted on him. Whether that’s good or bad depends on the voters’ mood, but it seems they’re already coming down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. If that continues, the politician who does the deed will have a nasty, brutish, and short career and all of it will go down in the history books as a warning to future politicians.
Which individual politician is going to do all of that?
They could appoint a sacrificial lamb as PM pro tempore, or send the Undersecretary for European Stuff instead, but that seems insufficient for an event of this magnitude. Besides, it doesn’t solve the internal Tory power struggle.
The EU leaders know all this, and that’s one reason they demand a speedy decision. If they force a decision on the UK government right now, there’s a chance it backs down. Essentially they’re holding a staring contest, with the difference that the rest of Europe is united against a common enemy, while Britain is divided in itself.
Of course the pliability of European politicians is the stuff of legends, so despite their advantages the EU leaders could blink first. But if they don’t, and if they refuse to wait for the Tory congress in October ... well, that would be interesting, wouldn’t it?
Forcing a quick decision is definitely to the advantage of those who want the UK to remain. And the EU leadership is doing exactly the right thing. That’s unexpected, and offers a glimmer of hope.
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This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.
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