Post-Brexit, would Whitehall be able to rise to the challenge of negotiating the best possible deal?

whitehallMuch will be expected of the civil service if Britain votes to leave the EU. Every Whitehall department and diplomats in Brussels will be embroiled in complex negotiations to thrash out a series of new relationships. Without additional resources and expertise, the UK’s ability to obtain the best possible deal may be hampered, writes Nicholas Wright, Teaching Fellow in EU Politics at UCL.

Following a vote to leave the EU, the UK would face an extensive round of highly complex negotiations to agree and manage withdrawal. Given the all-encompassing nature of EU membership, a crucial question is whether Whitehall – particularly the FCO and Cabinet Office – is sufficiently equipped and resourced to achieve a satisfactory outcome (whatever that might entail). In short, given the likely scope and intensity of the negotiations, could Whitehall face a ‘capabilities-expectations gap’ in terms of what it must deliver while simultaneously managing day-to-day government business? Continue reading

Does the Prime Minister have to trigger Brexit talks under Article 50 after a vote to leave the EU?

Credit: Quinn DombrowskiArticle 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the procedure for a member state leaving the EU, as would be the case for Brexit. In an earlier post, Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the UCL Constitution Unit, discussed how Article 50 could lock the UK into negotiations that could tilt the balance of power away from the UK and make a second in/out referendum on an improved renegotiation package (an idea floated by Boris Johnson among others) impossible. But could these problems be avoided by not using Article 50, as some Leave campaigners have suggested? Alan Renwick argues that the use of Article 50 would, in practice, be unavoidable.

Suddenly, the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 is the talk of the town. This is the legal provision setting out how a member state can leave the European Union. First, the departing state declares its intention to leave. Then negotiations are conducted between the departing state and the remaining 27. Either a deal is done and the departing state leaves on those terms, or, after two years, the departing state automatically exits (unless a unanimous vote of all the member states prolongs the window). Continue reading

What happens if we vote for Brexit?

GB_balloonThe EU referendum could be held as early as June so clarity is needed about what will happen in the event of a vote to leave. In this post Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the UCL Constitution Unit, explains Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets out the procedure for leaving the EU. Under it a second in/out referendum of the type floated by Boris Johnson among others is not possible. Anybody suggesting that voters can vote to ‘leave’ safe in the knowledge that they can later change their minds is either playing with fire or manipulating voters disingenuously.

2016 looks likely to be the year in which voters get to decide whether the UK will stay in the European Union. If David Cameron secures a deal with other EU leaders next month, we can expect to know the referendum date shortly afterwards. Then the key players will settle their positions and decide their core arguments. In the run-up to this crucial moment, we need clarity as to what the options are and what will happen in the event of a vote to remain or to leave.

The implications of a vote to remain are easily predicted: the UK will stay in the EU, with whatever tweaks to our terms of membership David Cameron has negotiated. But what happens in the event of a vote to leave? That is much less obvious. This post sets out the processes and probes their implications. Continue reading