We can break the Brexit deadlock: with a citizens’ assembly | Neal Lawson

These forums are used around the world to solve political impasses – most recently in Ireland on abortion law. It should be Britain’s turn next

Brexit is the rock on which our democratic system has run aground. But really the ship has been holed beneath the waterline for some time.

Some are content to shuffle the deckchairs and simply replace one captain with another – which may be necessary but is far from sufficient. Yet we can’t just stop Brexit and press the rewind button. Nothing will be the same again. And depending on the lessons we draw from the crisis and the actions we take, things will either get a whole lot better or a whole lot worse.

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EU’s hard Brexit is going to hurt — a lot

The EU is planning hard for a no-deal Brexit — and especially to make sure that if everyone goes over the cliff, the U.K. will land hardest of all.

The European Commission on Wednesday is set to approve a series of legislative initiatives to avoid the most disastrous outcomes of a no-deal scenario. It has described the preparations as “a limited number of contingency measures to mitigate significant disruptions in some narrowly defined areas.”

But while the EU’s disaster planning is intended to avert all-out catastrophe in the days immediately following Britain’s crash-out on March 29, Brussels also wants to be clear that its contingency operations won’t make no-deal a walk in the park. It will neither allow the U.K. to continue enjoying the benefits of EU membership, nor will it replicate the soft landing of the 21-month stand-in-place transition period envisioned in the draft Withdrawal Treaty agreed last month.

Generally speaking, contingency measures are expected to expire at the end of 2019 — giving the U.K. nine months to try to replicate the regulatory and policy infrastructure assembled over its more than 40 years in the EU.

What will the measures entail?

On road transport, the consequences of a no-deal scenario will be even harsher for the U.K., as British hauliers would face sharp restrictions to traffic allowed to operate on the Continent.

An example of one measure the Commission will propose on Wednesday is to guarantee that British airlines can fly over EU territory, make technical stops, such as for refueling, without passengers disembarking, and will be able to apply to fly between the U.K. and EU. Without new legislation, such stops would not be allowed because the U.K. will be a third country.

But even with the contingency plans, British airlines would no longer be able to operate flights between cities in the EU27 — ending lucrative routes for U.K.-owned carriers such as easyJet unless they have taken their own Brexit preparedness measures. In addition, the EU will propose measures that will ensure the continued validity of “safety certificates” that allow planes to keep flying — but only for a limited amount of time.

On road transport, the consequences of a no-deal scenario will be even harsher for the U.K., as British hauliers would face sharp restrictions to traffic allowed to operate on the Continent.

The measures to be proposed by the Commission on Wednesday were largely outlined in a communication issued on November 13, which received relatively little attention amid the noise of the final stages of the Brexit negotiations.

But with a majority of the House of Commons currently opposing the Withdrawal Treaty and Prime Minister Theresa May struggling to win over votes, the preparedness initiatives are now likely to move center-stage, as all sides contemplate the increased risks of a no-deal outcome.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, center, and EU leaders at the summit in Brussels | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

In the November 13 communication, the Commission warned again that there is no such thing as a smooth Brexit. “Irrespective of the scenario envisaged, the United Kingdom’s choice will cause significant disruption,” the Commission warned.

But there was an even starker warning for Britain: contingency planning, unlike the negotiations on a withdrawal deal, is a one-sided affair. “Contingency measures will only be taken where strictly necessary and in the interest of the European Union and its citizens.”

It also noted that even in areas where contingency measures are taken there could be serious disruption or delays based on a lack of preparedness by national governments, businesses or citizens.

The measures proposed on Wednesday will add to a list of eight other legislative initiatives that the Commission has already put forward, including one that would exempt British travellers from visa requirements for short stays in the EU.

In addition, the EU has published dozens of preparedness notices warning of the consequences of a disorderly departure of the U.K. Among the little-noticed impacts: U.K. citizens and businesses will no longer be able to register internet sites using the .eu domain, and any U.K. entities that currently have such sites will not be able to renew them.

Bottom line: the landing at the bottom of the Brexit cliff is going to hurt — a lot — even with careful preparation.

This insight is from POLITICO‘s Brexit Files newsletter, a daily afternoon digest of the best coverage and analysis of Britain’s decision to leave the EU available to Brexit Pro subscribers. Sign up here.


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