Ques­tion time

The UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU has raised so many ques­tions and with de­fin­i­tive an­swers still to be given, Matthew Cameron con­sid­ers the pos­si­ble out­comes

Living France - - Les Pratiques -

Hardly had the re­sult of the UK’s ref­er­en­dum set in among the elec­torate be­fore the po­lit­i­cal fall-out be­gan. We have pre­vi­ously looked at what might hap­pen if the UK were to ex­press a de­sire to leave the EU; the task now is more tan­gi­ble, given the re­sult. Yet it is by no means any eas­ier to pre­dict just what the new Euro­pean land­scape will look like, not least given the volatile state of UK pol­i­tics at the mo­ment.

David Cameron’s res­ig­na­tion may have been an­tic­i­pated in the light of a vote to leave the EU, how­ever nar­row the mar­gin, but he has been re­placed by pro-EU Theresa May who has been charged with im­pos­ing a choice ex­pressed by the peo­ple she did not sup­port her­self. At the time of writ­ing, a new cab­i­net po­si­tion has been cre­ated – Sec­re­tary of State for Ex­it­ing the EU, a so-called ‘Brexit sec­re­tary’ – which has been filled by vet­eran Euroscep­tic David Davis. Theresa May has also ap­pointed other pro-Leave MPs to cab­i­net po­si­tions in­clud­ing An­drea Lead­som and Liam Fox.

The swell of the Left talk­ing against Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, given his far from en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port of a ‘Re­main’ cam­paign could have been fore­seen: he was not a pop­u­lar choice among the par­lia­men­tary Labour Party af­ter all. Cor­byn now faces a lead­er­ship chal­lenge, with An­gela Ea­gle now sup­port­ing Owen Smith as a re­place­ment.

CHAL­LENGE AND CHANGE

But amid all of this po­lit­i­cal farce, we must now look to see what the fu­ture will bring, and more im­por­tantly for Fran­cophiles, what im­pact the re­sult will have on our abil­ity to live, work and own prop­erty in France. What will hap­pen to those who al­ready own prop­erty on the other side of the English Chan­nel; those who al­ready work there or have al­ready re­tired to France? In­evitably, this ar­ti­cle will have an in­cred­i­bly short lifes­pan – events have al­ready moved on so quickly in such a short space of time, and any views ex­pressed now may well be out of date within a few months, if not weeks or days. At the time of writ­ing, there are even a num­ber of chal­lenges to the sta­tus of the ref­er­en­dum re­sult: whether there should be a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on the grounds that the first was fu­elled by un­true as­ser­tions; whether the will of the peo­ple is suf­fi­cient to al­low the Prime Min­is­ter to use her con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tive to serve no­tice in ac­cor­dance with the terms of the no­to­ri­ous Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty; or whether in fact only new leg­is­la­tion could au­tho­rise the no­tice be­ing served. If it tran­spires that the last of these is the only real op­tion for serv­ing no­tice to quit the EU, there could be great dif­fi­culty in pass­ing the ne­c­es­sary law through the Houses of Par­lia­ment, given that the House of Com­mons is sub­stan­tially in favour of re­main­ing in Europe.

Since Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May was not in favour of the Leave cam­paign, then we can re­al­is­ti­cally ex­pect the pas­sage to leav­ing the EU to con­tinue to be just as rocky from here, de­spite some of her re­cent as­ser­tions.

A WAIT­ING GAME

None of this, though, an­swers the main ques­tion of what is go­ing to hap­pen. Or per­haps it does. There is so much that re­mains to be un­der­stood at the present time, so much con­jec­ture as to where we will be head­ing, that we can­not with any cer­tainty ex­plain the con­se­quences. We can, though, con­sider some of the cur­rent views, and see what could hap­pen un­der these. We do know that noth­ing will hap­pen in prac­tice for at least two years, and quite pos­si­bly longer.

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