Key Brexiteers in Theresa May’s government are totally underestimating how long and difficult negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union will be, according to Labour MP Stephen Kinnock.
Kinnock, who spent nine years living in Brussels where he held several positions in the EU Parliament and other institutions, sat down with Business Insider earlier this week to discuss all things Brexit.
In this part of the interview, we asked the MP for Aberavon to use his experience of working in the 28-nation bloc to give his prediction for how long the process will take.
As many commentators have pointed out, it took Canada seven years to finalise its trade agreement with the EU. Kinnock told us Britain’s task of cutting legal and political ties with the 28-nation bloc only to then forge new ones could potentially take even longer.
“I genuinely think that’s possible,” he said, when asked if he thought Brexit could take 10 years.
“What you have to recognise that is after Article 50 is done, the next step of negotiations is agreement by an absolute majority in the European Parliament and ratification in all 27 member state parliaments. I would be absolutely amazed if you could do that in less than a year.”
He added: “You only need the Slovenian parliament, for example, to say ‘actually, we don’t like what’s just been agreed on the tariffs on automobiles’ and it all gets held up in the Slovenian Parliament. I think that’s one of the reasons why hardcore Brexiteers are pushing for the hard version.
“I think they know that there is a massive risk that negotiations will drag on and on and the British people will say ‘hold on a second, I thought this was all about taking back control?’ when we are in a quagmire of negotiations.
“The idea that we are just going to sail through all this happily singing a merry tune is for the birds.”
“It’s mind-boggling how complex this is and I am saying this as someone that believes that the UK has to leave the EU but I also know a little bit about how Brussels works and how the other EU member states work and the system.”
On Tuesday, David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, made the bold claim that “there will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside” when he addressed the House of Commons. The remark came in for both serious and sarcastic criticism on social media.
“It [Davis’ claim] is clearly absolute nonsense,” Kinnock told BI.
“It is going to massively destabilise and disrupt the system. You have a civil service which has been cut to the bone over the decades, trying to navigate through completely uncharted waters with a very complex negotiation going on with 27 member states and EU institutions with a divided Conservative Party. This is a recipe for chaos.
“The idea that we are just going to sail through all this happily singing a merry tune is for the birds. It is disappointing that he is showing such a cavalier attitude to the challenge that we face and I’m afraid that the Brexiteers are going to have to have a reality check.”
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