Tory leadership candidate Dr Liam Fox described the process laid out in Article 50 as ‘stupid’. Yes, he’s right – it’s a dreadful way to go about things. The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom described this sequence of events yesterday. Dr Fox further described this as ‘her position’, as if a bit of posturing and stamping of feet might change it. Erm… It’s not ‘her position’, it’s the process as laid down in the famous Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which we’ve agreed to.
Dr Fox is right in one thing – this sequence of events is indeed stupid. It’s clearly intended to be stupid. So stupid that no country in their right mind would ever enter the process. It places the Leaver at a huge disadvantage, having to make the fundamental choice of exit before anything is known about the actual terms. It is aimed at ensuring that, while it’s possible to leave, the doorway leads to a dark and uncertain place.
Dr Fox seems to think that we can somehow change this. He’s wrong. Changing it would require a change to the Lisbon treaty itself, which then constitutionally requires referendums in many EU countries who may not be minded just at this moment to take up their valuable time for another power who has just kicked them in the teeth.