When the Australian colonies decided to federate, they wanted their constitution to outlaw protectionism between the federated states. They used words that were simple and grand. Interstate trade was to be ‘absolutely free’. But that simple provision baffled the best legal minds in the world for the best part of a century. Free from what? And assuming that you can work with the word ‘free’, how could you ensure that it was ‘absolute’. Does this mean that if I shoot and kill a competitor while crossing the border while plying my trade that I cannot be prosecuted for murder?
But the first problem was that the proposed solution masked a question. You can see a similar problem in the U K referendum. The people were asked if they wanted to leave the E U. They said yes. But on what terms? The proposed solution masked another question. And the question then becomes who will provide the answer to that question? On whose instructions? On what criteria?
If you want to go into business with someone, you investigate them and negotiate with them and then you make a commercial decision. That comes only when you are ready to make up your mind. If you go into business, and then want to terminate it, you negotiate and see if you can agree the terms. This will be more difficult if the relationship has broken down. If you cannot reach agreement, the courts are not good with this kind of breakdown.
As I follow the E U, if someone wants out, they give notice. They then have two years to come to terms. If they don’t in that time, the relationship simply ends without more. If that is right, and you want out, you don’t give the notice until you have a good idea of what you might negotiate and that either that prospect or no agreement at all is better for you than staying in.
If all that is right, you can see the fearful mess the English have got themselves in. There are irreconcilable differences in the leave group. The government is at best in caretaker mode. The opposition is dissolving as we speak; their MPs did not vote their leader into his office, and he lacks respect. Most current MPs are against leaving. One political party says it will fight the next election on staying in.
The first problem is the worst. The soft-liners want their sovereignty back and to stay in the single market. The problem then is that this conflicts with the hardliners who resist the free movement of people required by the single market – and it was immigration that the hard-liners pushed in the campaign, and in the vilest manner possible. If that is right, the hardliners or the soft-liners will have to give up something of value – in which case the final decision to leave may be made on grounds opposed by most of the nation.
Ordinarily, after an election, the winner goes ahead to implement their program. Here we have no program. We don’t even have a winner. The most polite term you could apply to Farage, Johnson, and Gove is that they have been disingenuous. They were not frank with their supporters. It is appalling that they have left their country in this mess. How is the incoming government, before and after the election, supposed to deal with this? Their first task will not be to ask the second question, but to frame it. Either way, the ultimate and most important question on any exit will have to be taken by someone. A second referendum is not out of the question.
Meanwhile a woman in Scotland is giving her nation real leadership that puts those English boys to shame. God help them when they come up against that woman in Germany.