We are less than a month away from Great Britain’s exit from the European Union. Hopefully, the Great Distraction will be over. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours have been lost on the handling of Brexit. We have pored over the regulations for thousands of areas. We have read the fine print, scrutinised the treaties, digested the options. And now, it is time to move on to greater things.

It is difficult to know exactly how much time was spent on Brexit. But it is undoubtedly considerable. More than the time of the European Civil Service, a lot of the political time that national politicians allocate to Europe has been spent on that as well.

2013: Dramatis Persona

David Cameron, then UK Prime Minister made a speech in January 2013. In it, he announced his intent to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership of the European Union, and subsequently to hold a UK referendum on its membership status.

2015: Prelude

The saga officially started on the 15th of April 2015 when the Conservative Party manifesto included a pledge to hold an in/out referendum for leaving the EU.

That was confirmed on the 7th May 2015 when the Conservatives won 50.8% of the seats with 36.8% of the vote. This was 330 seats out of a total of 650.

Then, the European Union Referendum Act was passed by both houses and gained Royal Assent on the 17th December 2015.

2016: Act I

After months of preparation, campaigning and agony from both sides, we arrive at the Referendum date of 23rd June 2016. The British public voted on whether to Remain or Leave, with Leave winning at 52%. The Daily Mail had proudly declared on its cover that morning “Who will speak for England?”. And a lot of the voters answered.

2017: Act II

It took another nine months for the UK government to trigger Article 50, in March 2017. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party had suggested that it be triggered in June 2016, but his suggestion was rebuffed.

2018: Brexit Interlude

Meetings, planes, time. And the UK parliament was not able to form a majority for a particular withdrawal agreement.

2019: Act III

We are currently in March 2019 and the UK parliament has not agreed to any deal yet.

On the 29th March 2019, the default position is that Great Britain will leave our European Union.

The question that arises now: there are 32,000 European fonctionnaires who work in the European Commission. 27 Commissioners. National Politicians. A few pan-European political parties here and there.

What should our priority be post-Brexit?

Crédit photo: Markos Loizou

Nicolas Mavreas was born on what later became Europe’s eastern frontier, on the island of Cyprus. He lived through Europe’s enlargement and the turmoil of the early 2010’s. After completing his two-year compulsory national service, he went to the University of Cambridge to study. He observed the Brexit debate and result. Being a European in another member-state sharpened his awareness of the European “we” and spurred on a search to understand the European interest.

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