WORRY NO MORE…EAST AYRSHIRE COUNCIL BACKS REMAIN!

BILL JAMIESON

Anxious about the EU referendum outcome? Worry no more! It’s all over bar the shouting… now that East Ayrshire Council has thrown its full support behind ‘Remain’ and against a UK Brexit from the EU.

Councillors decided last week that it would snub the UK’s so-called ‘Brexit’ from the EU and support the Scotland Stronger in European campaign.

The council received a letter from former Motherwell and Wishaw MP, Frank Roy seeking backing for the campaign group and met at its headquarters in Kilmarnock and approval to back the campaign won cross party support.

The Cumnock Chronicle reported that Annick SNP councillor, Eoghann MacColl “made an impassioned speech”, declaring, “We see the EU not as a threat but as a fantastic opportunity.”

Supporting him, Doon Valley Councillor, John Bell, said, “I never thought I’d say this, but in this instance, I think we are better together.”

Cllr MacColl was backed by Conservative councillor, Tom Cook. The Cumnock Chronicle did not record whether this contribution was cheered to the rafters or received in mutinous silence.

But it’s surely clear now that, now that it has joined the full political elite conspiracy – the IMF, the Bank of England, the OECD, Barack Obama and the World Bank – East Ayrshire may have decisively tipped the scales.

Meanwhile, a worrying insight into how the EU might respond to a “Vote Leave” victory is set out in the latest edition of The Conversation.com. It has taken a close look – a very close look – at the EU’s Article 50. This sets out the legal position in the event of a country opting to withdraw (which is not, apparently, the same as Leave).

Article 50 may look simple enough. It provides for the EU negotiating an agreement with a departing member, setting out terms. The European Commission negotiates this agreement and the remaining member states sign off on it – once the European Parliament has given its consent.

When the Article 50 agreement enters into force, the EU treaties simply stop applying to the UK. And if agreeing a mutually satisfactory deal proves impossible, there is a fall-back position. The EU treaties will simply stop applying two years after the UK first notified its intention to withdraw (a period that can be extended if needed).

The process all sounds straightforward. In reality, however, the website says it will be anything but.

The negotiations will see the UK on the one side, and all the remaining member states collectively on the other. “Within the EU side, we can expect hard bargaining, messy compromises and trade-offs between the remaining EU member state interests. Individual states will block agreement in one area unless they gain concessions in others. Nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed.”

The website warns of potentially dire consequences, with the UK being forced to pay a high price for access to the Single Market. And it says uncertainty – and the prospect that a good deal cannot be reached – “is likely to hang over the UK and the EU alike like a toxic cloud. This will impact on financial markets. It will hit investment. It will hit the value of the pound.”

Future relations will also likely involve an entirely separate parallel agreement – requiring tortuous negotiations which could last years. Furthermore the UK will also have to negotiate trade deals with states outside the EU (meaning agreements with all non-EU WTO member states) – “a daunting undertaking in terms of the time, the effort and the persuasive skills it will take.

After the UK leaves, the remaining member states will probably have to negotiate the revision of their internal institutional arrangements, which might involve treaty change.

Would a change-of-mind referendum by the UK be legally permissible, enabling it to back out of Brexit? The point is not absolutely clear, but there is arguably no legal bar on the UK government rescinding its withdrawal notice under Article 50, should the UK change its mind. Oh dear, a Neverendum – Mark Two.

It all sounds complicated, messy and horrible – until we recall one gigantic fact: the countries of the Euro zone are enjoying a record trade surplus with the UK. This hit £23.9 billion in the first three months of the year, up by £700 million on the previous quarter.

Overall, our goods trade deficit with the rest of the world hit £34.7 billion with the EU accounting for more than two thirds of this.
In the interests of which Euro zone country would it be to drag heels on negotiating a new trading agreement with the UK given the huge trade surplus enjoyed in dealings with Britain? What benefit would there be in denying their own companies a continuation of such a state of affairs?

The other countries of the EU and beyond – have a colossal vested interest in maintaining good trade relations with the UK – and minimising the period of uncertainty.

Article 50 speaks loud. So, too, does East Ayrshire Council. But might not £23.9 billion speak louder?

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