Second thoughts on Brexit?

There seems to be some confusion in the UK about what to do now that the referendum on leaving the European Union resulted in the Leave side winning. It appears that there is a possibility that the UK may not actually leave after all. The actual process of leaving only begins when the government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that forms the basic structure of the union and there seems to be hesitancy on both sides about triggering it.

As Robert Mackey writes, the referendum was an advisory one and not binding on the government. Prime minister David Cameron has said that he will not invoke Article 50 but will leave it to his successor to decide when to do so when the new leader is chosen after he resigns, which will be October at the latest.

But what is most surprising is that Boris Johnson, one of the most vociferous leaders of the Leave vote and the person seen as a leading candidate for replacing Cameron, also seems to be not keen on invoking Article 50, a move that surprised observers.

“In voting to leave the EU, it is vital to stress that there is no need for haste,” Johnson said, “and indeed, as the prime minister has just said, nothing will change over the short term, except that work will have to begin on how to give effect to the will of the people and to extricate this country from the supranational system.”

Given that the popular mandate his side had just won was summed up in a single word on the backdrop behind him, “Leave,” it seemed odd that Johnson made no mention of the fastest way to get that process started, by pressing for an immediate Article 50 declaration.

It is being speculated that Johnson thinks that the threat of triggering Article 50 might be sufficient to force the rest of the EU to grant more concessions to the UK in order to get them to stay and that this was his goal all along.

But using this kind of referendum as merely a bargaining tool seems like a risky strategy. For one thing, the rest of the EU might think that caving in to this kind of coercion would set a bad precedent for other countries. In fact, they might seek to actually punish the UK in order to discourage such moves. EU leaders, who cannot invoke Article 50 themselves, seem to be anxious to close this chapter as soon as possible and are urging the British government to do so quickly and not wait until October.

Furthermore, after firing up their supporters that belonging to the EU was destroying their status as a sovereign nation able to decide issues for themselves, staying in would seem a like a major betrayal, like UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s retreat after the referendum of the promise that the £350 million that the UK was supposedly sending the EU every week would instead be spent on the underfunded National Health Service.

And that is not all.

The about-face from Mr Farage comes amid a series of U-turns from the Brexit camp immediately after results came in.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, who unlike Mr Farage campaigned with the official Vote Leave group, said he now believed a post-EU settlement should not result in reduced immigration.

“Chaps, look at what I said throughout the campaign: it’s all on Twitter, YouTube etc. I was for more control, not for minimal immigration,” he tweeted on Saturday morning.

If the leaders of the Leave campaign backtrack too much from the promises they made, they may face a major revolt.


  1. says

    One of the consequences of the Leave vote is that even those concessions which had been negotiated in February were automatically voided. The following quote is from a House of Lord European Committee Report
    ‘We note in this context that the Conclusions of the 18–19 February 2016 European Council, at which the terms of the ‘New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union’ were agreed, stated that “should the result of the referendum in the United Kingdom be for it to leave the European Union, the set of rrangements referred to [regarding the ‘New Settlement’] will cease to exist”. In other words, the outcome of the recent renegotiation of the UK’s membership terms will, in the event of a vote to leave the EU, fall the moment the result of the referendum is known.’
    It seems unlikely that there will be any appetite for negotiating a better package.
    It seems more likely that the other 27 will take their inspiration from Macbeth: “Stand not upon the order of your going,
    But go at once.”

  2. says

    They enjoy whipping people up into a froth, they enjoy spreading hate and bigotry, but they don’t want to deal with the result. Having to cope with the reality of this decision is not something they want to do. It seems like a lot of people want a do-over anyway. Now that the fever is over, people might find themselves able to think again. Maybe.

  3. says

    And there’s this:

    It’s already started — one woman told ITV News, “Even though I voted to leave, this morning I woke up and I just — the reality did actually hit me. If I’d had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay.”


  4. says

    I can’t see any way the UK can now remain in the EU

    And you can be pretty sure Scotland will break off and remain in, if they can swing it. Ireland may have more trouble unifying to separate.

    It’s such a clusterfuck I almost want to laugh, except I look at our in-house clusterfuck and my chuckles turn to sobs. I’m going to be in London in a couple weeks and I suppose it’ll be nice to get a slight discount on stuff -- but that won’t come close to offsetting the loss to my investments.

    I wonder whether Pat Condell was on the brexit side.

  5. doublereed says

    At first, people were talking about how this could collapse the EU, as many other countries are considering exiting. But now I get the impression that the EU damage might be minimal, as UK always held the EU at arm’s length.

    Instead, this might collapse the UK, with Scotland splitting off and the unification of Ireland.

  6. says

    PS -- I can’t help but wail with laughter when conservative politicans talk about EU fees as great big expenses when they spend assloads of money on their military.

    Cameron has pledged to add another $12bn to the UK defense budget, which puts it at $269bn annually.

    Uh, how much was the EU into you for, brits? Like…. how many thousandths of that?

  7. says

    Marcus Ranum @ #4:

    I wonder whether Pat Condell was on the brexit side.

    Of course he was. He put up a 10+-minute video about how the EU is less like a democracy and more like the Soviet Union.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Graduate, final scene: Dustin Hoffman, against all odds, has overcome various hurdles to win the girl. As they make their getaway, the camera slowly zooms in on his face: now what is he going to do?

  9. Mano Singham says


    I read that when the director Mike Nichols shot that scene, he deliberately kept the cameras rolling far longer than the actors expected and that the actors’ expressions of “Now what do we do?” was partly due to them wondering what they were actually supposed to do!

  10. John Morales says

    Nathan, apart from its political inconceivability (it would cause the ruling party — the Conservative Party — to lose face, and very strongly strengthen UKIP, the loony party), the UK has already lost its special status within the EU.

    (cf. my previous).

  11. says

    (Apologies for the language, Mano, but…)

    Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

    Even sitting here in the States watching this unfold… I’m fucking terrified…

  12. hyphenman says


    It is being speculated that Johnson thinks that the threat of triggering Article 50 might be sufficient to force the rest of the EU to grant more concessions to the UK in order to get them to stay and that this was his goal all along.

    I don’t think this is really a matter of speculation. From listening to reports over the last couple of days--and talking with friends in the UK--My understanding is that Johnson clearly articulated that he wanted the vote as a bargaining chip so as to force a renegotiation with the EU.


  13. says

    As the old curse goes, Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Farage, Johnson and their ilk wanted to incite rage in the populace and make people turn violent against those who cause problems in the country. But I doubt they ever saw themselves as the problem.

    They may need to be put in a secure place for their own protection. I suggest the Tower of London.

  14. Sean2007 says

    As with any abusive relationship, you can expect an increase of threats, coercion, insults and attacks as you attempt to walk out the door. The friends and family of the abuser will likely attack you as well. You will usually see a severe drop in your financial situation, at least in the beginning. But in the end, if you want to be free, you must be prepared to see things get worse before they get better.

    The EU and its bankster owners waited no time in retaliating. The establishment media harped on about “racism” and “xenophobia” prior to the vote as if there was no other conceivable reason to reject a cadre of unelected, unaccountable neoliberal/neocon sharks. The media now pushes the fiction of millions of people regretting their votes which they were allegedly too ill informed to understand in the first place. I normally don’t listen to fake liberal trash media like NPR but the propaganda there has been laughably predictable and always a good bellwether of establishment cant.

    It never occurs to critics of Brexit that if the markets and the Eurocrats could punish the UK when it hasn’t de facto or de jure withdrawn from the EU yet than it could have done the same irregardless of any attempt to end the relationship. It is precisely to break this kind of political and economic stranglehold that all member states should secede from the EU. There is grave danger to any European nation attempting to assert its sovereignty or liberate itself from subservience to finance capitalism so long as the EU exists. What they cannot compel through economic warfare they are happy to do with military force if it comes to that.

  15. mnb0 says

    Uhh Sean, there is one little problem with your analogy. Abusers try to prevent their victims from walking out. The EU wants the UK to walk out as quickly as possible, while “abused victim” Boris Johnson is using delaying tactics.

  16. sonofrojblake says

    people like Sean2007 actually exist??

    People who use the word “irregardless”? Yes, I’m afraid they do.

    My favourite stat of the week:
    Proportion of UK population who accept evolution as a fact: 48%. (Source: Ipsos Mori poll for the BBC). Proportion of UK population who voted Remain: 48%.
    Coincidence? Well, yes, obviously. Proportion of Remain voters and proportion of ignorant fuckwits just happens to be exactly the same to a decimal place.

  17. sonofrojblake says

    Meanwhile proportion of people who can’t be bothered to check for typos in front of my keyboard is 100%. For “Remain” in the last sentence, read “Leave”, obvs.

  18. Sean2007 says

    Oh my god, people like Sean2007 actually exist??

    Yes, we’re called “leftists.” What are you, fool?

  19. Sean2007 says

    The EU wants the UK to walk out as quickly as possible, while “abused victim” Boris Johnson is using delaying tactics.

    Nonsense. Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Deutsche Bank did not spend untold millions trying to convince people to remain so their minions could encourage the UK to exit the EU as quickly as possible based on a non-binding referendum. Obviously, the longer it takes for the UK to implement its exit from the EU the longer pro-EU politicians have to try and undermine support for Brexit and reverse the outcome of the vote. Economic warfare against the pound will likely help given time. Allowing the UK to exit swiftly and painlessly will encourage other would-be defectors to do the same.

  20. Sean2007 says

    Proportion of UK population who accept evolution as a fact: 48%. (Source: Ipsos Mori poll for the BBC). Proportion of UK population who voted Remain: 48%.
    Coincidence? Well, yes, obviously. Proportion of Remain voters and proportion of ignorant fuckwits just happens to be exactly the same to a decimal place.

    If this is the quality of “reasoning” used by the Remain camp (and it is, only worse) then I can see why the Brexit people (“ignorant fuckwits” that they are) voted to leave. Your meaningless doublethink is nothing more than an exercise in numerology and class snobbery.

    Not that it matters a whit with regard to Brexit, but support for creationism in the UK has been overrated.

  21. sonofrojblake says

    Sean2007 -- if you can’t recognise a joke when it’s telegraphed with phrases like “yes, obviously”, and instead take it for “reasoning”, you represent the Brexit side quite well. Yes, it was an exercise in numerology. As the young people say: Duh. You seem not to have processed that it was explicitly stated as such, acknowledging that it really is just a coincidence, like all numerology.

    You also quite well represent the Brexit side (and the Remain side, to be truthful), in that you’re grasping at misleading statistics to support your case. I stated the proportion of the population who accept evolution as fact. You did not dispute this -- indeed, you cannot. Instead you attempt to misdirect, by talking about creationism. This is disingenuous, because not everyone who does not accept evolution as a fact is necessarily a creationist. Sure, the UK is, compared the US, quite short on (but by no means free of) the kind of batshit nutjobs who think the earth is six thousand years old. But that doesn’t mean we’ve not got lots and lots of people who, while they wouldn’t describe themselves as “creationists” as such, nevertheless don’t accept evolution as a scientific fact, but have their own little accommodationist fairy stories going on, such as the idea that the universe is old but the sky-pixie intervenes to make genetics work.

  22. Holms says

    Sorry Sean, but your selectivity in believing certain things and not others is showing. Disregarding reports from relatively neutral media (such as the well documented nationalistic pandering and accompanying racism) as mere cant, while accepting the talking points direct from the Leave campaign (such as the exaggeratly burdensome EU regulations) as neutral? Hah.

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