The new Brexit Magic Word: Transition

There has always been some magic around Brexit. Attracted by having a cake which can be eaten up and kept at the same time – something the muggles in the rest of the EU would never understand, some embarked on the magic Eurostar at platform nine-three-quarters at St.Pancras to see the grand wizard Michel Barnier in Brussels. But up to now the magic words did not really work well. Some dark arts must have spoilt them. There was only a muggle shop that wanted money for the cookies.

Since there is a growing awareness that magic wands can exert quite damaging effects if fallen into the hands of Brexiteers, now everybody looks for a new magic spell. „Transition“ became the new magic word of all the people of good-will hoping that everything will come out well.

But there is a lot of confusion around what could be the outcome when using it. Britain is leaving the Intereuropean Magic Association soon, it will have to deliver all transnational wands to the authorities in Brussels and will be restrained to national wands only. The date has been fixed by the British government to be in March 2019. Then Brexit is there – or will any transition come first ?

What could transition mean: stay in Europe until nobody believes in leaving any more ? stay in for a limited time with all the rights and duties of a member ? stay in under some special status – whatever that means ?

When membership ends, the wands are changed, there is no way to keep both: the European and the national wand. Transition means that the next status shall be valid for a limited time only. Staying in for a limited time would mean a renewed membership, and would either need a revocation of Brexit before March 2019 or a new application for membership after that date. Brexit means Brexit and after March 2019 there is no revocation. There are good reasons why the treaties did not foresee a proplonged bancrupcy procedure for exiting and had limited the exit procedures to two years after triggering Brexit.

So what else could transition mean. Since the whole effort is to avoid the effects of the black magic of full Brexit at least for some time, another status must be negotiated for that time: it could be a Customs Union or membership of the EEZ – the European Economic Zone – only with the reservation to end this status after a certain time. This form of transition needs no magic, because this status is already on offer from the EU without any time limit, but certainly can be terminated by Britain at any time when the wizards of Whitehall deem it appropriate.

So – dear wizards – leave your wands at home. Just take with you some common sense and ask the EU to accept Britain as a member of the EEZ, copy more or less the model of Norway, that is: stay in the single market with very few exceptions, accept Schengen, accept jurisdiction of the European Court in Luxemburg, keep full freedom of settling and working for all EU-citizens.

Tell Brexiteers that this is the transition towards (possible) full Brexit, tell Remainers that they have (possibly) another chance to reverse the whole black magic, when everybody sees the whole damage, and tell those who want to stay in the middle, that after ten years you will (definitely) ask the people what they want.

What is on offer in ten years ? That is quite simple:

  1. A new application for full membership in a European Union that in ten years may hopefully made decisive steps towards an ever closer union. All EU-members have then to agree to accept this application.
  2. Stay in the European Economic zone, keep EU-freedom of movement, EU Court jurisdiction, and stay in the single market with few exceptions. Competence for trade agreements stays in Brussels.There are no negotiations necessary to make the transition permanent.
  3. Leave the EEZ but keep a Customs Union, competence for trade agreements stays mainly in Brussels, the jurisdiction of the Luxemburg Court is respected on all issues where the Customs Union is involved, but freedom of movement may not be included.
  4. Leave EEZ and not embark on a Customs Union, but try to have a free trade agreement then, which could in the meantime be negotiated (ten years is just enough for that).

I do not like referenda. They are a form of democracy without safeguards. But to correct the bad spell of the referendum of 2016 it may be necessary to use the same magic wand again. So let the people decide about these four alternatives after 10 years of transition. This gives Britain a chance for a new assessment of the situation, and it gives the EU ten years to develop its ideas without British interference.