Triggering Article 50, the Deal

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On Wednesday the 29th of March 2017, Theresa May will trigger Article 50. Article 50 is the section within the Lisbon Treaty – part of amendments made in 2008 to the Maastricht Treaty – which allows a member state to enact its departure from the European Union.

This process means a minimum of two years of negotiations between the Conservatives and the European Commission, after ‘obtaining consent’ from the European Parliament.

Towards the end of the negotiations, the resulting agreement must be approved once in Westminster – due to the Conservative’s reluctance to face too much scrutiny from opposition members of parliament – and must be approved by the European Parliament and each of the 27 members of the Council for the process to be complete. However, the two year period of negotiations can be extended granted that the United Kingdom and the European Council both agree to do so.

On Saturday the 25th of March 2017, an estimated 35,000 anti-Brexit protesters marched upon Westminster following the announcement of the exact date of when Article 50 would be triggered.

Wednesday the 29th of March marks the beginning of a lengthy and indefinite period of uncertainty for the United Kingdom.

Although there are many valid critiques of the European Union – its internal structures, lack of democratic accountability for its representatives, its overall economic direction – and there are many valid critiques of the mechanisms of how the United Kingdom operated for many years within it; it is still nonetheless true that such a period of indefinite uncertainty will be disastrous for the United Kingdom. All indicators suggest stagnation, weakening economic confidence to any greater degree than was possible previous to Brexit.

As the financial sector caused the economy to collapse in 2008, ramifications were felt by ordinary people. People were made redundant, prices for basic goods increased, the economic incompetence and ideological madness of austerity disguised as ‘financial responsibility’ became the common sense of the era. As a result, house prices and financial speculation – both major factors behind the crisis – continued to rise significantly, rent continued to explode, precarious work rose beyond comprehension, VAT was increased, public services suffered huge cuts in funds, and public sector workers suffered a real terms pay cut.

As the economy inevitably began to recover after this crisis period, by 2016:

“the richest 1,000 families [now] control total of £547bn, rising by more than 112% since 2009, and own more than poorest 40% of British households.”

“While average UK incomes yet to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

To think that a reversal, and another period of stagnation will see the top 1-10% paying their proportionate share towards lessening the economic effects on Brexit for the rest of us, is naive.

In the United Kingdom, GDP figures remain as a figurative mirage to the working poor and to the majority of the population during times of growth. When the same GDP figures take a downturn, the mirage instantly becomes an existential threat to those very same individuals.

The United Kingdom still has the same party with a majority in government that oversaw this era of economic ‘recovery’ and austerity. Yes, the European Union forces other nations to implement austerity on their citizens, particularly nations in the Eurozone. Although, to think that the same party – the Conservatives – will either act in the best interests of those that they have victimised and held back for the previous 7 years is not only naive, it is worse.

We are jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, and are already seeing the ‘threats‘ of using the United Kingdom’s new ‘sovereignty’ to undercut tax arrangements and to engage in a race-to-the-bottom with the European Union. For the time being, this is put forward by the Conservatives as a necessary card to play while engaging in negotiations with the EU. More than just a ‘card’ to play, this is a happy accident for the Tories. These threats are not only threats, they are the aims of Conservative ideology, and have been for decades.

For all of the faults of the European Union, giving the Conservatives – who are the party of the ownership class – the power of triggering and negotiating Article 50 means the country has given full responsibility to a group whose interests are diametrically opposed to the majority of its people. This coupled with upcoming uncertainty for a period of several undefined years is a double-whammy.

If you do not own assets, you are about to be hit particularly hard, and you will also be blamed for it.


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