Myth buster: Why Scottish voters will know truth of the Brexit deal by date of new referendum


Explainer: Brexit timetable is the spark that reignites movement for independence in Scotland

IT’S CLEAR THAT THE REALITIES of Brexit haven’t hit home yet when UK media voices remain confused about its basic timetable. 

The Tories told the BBC that a new independence referendum would leave voters “blind” to the deal done in Brexit talks, leading to widespread speculation that an Autumn 2018 vote would mean Scots not knowing the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU.

While there remains massive uncertainties about the Tory’s Brexit plans – the Tory government lost two court cases and two parliament votes already over the lack of a plan – basic evidence proves that a deal has to be written by late 2018 to meet its deadline.

This matters because the Brexit deal is likely to make the UK poorer, and will bring threats to trade, Scotland’s universities, agriculture, the rights of EU citizens here, and the right of all Scots to work and travel in Europe. 

Making a deal 

The main confusion over this timetable comes from mistaking the March 2019 deadline for legally exiting the EU with a ‘Brexit deal’ document being agreed. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her thoughts on how this would relate to the date of a Scottish referendum: “And what we know is that on the timetable set out by the prime minister, the shape of the Brexit deal will become clear in the autumn of next year – ahead of ratification votes by other EU countries.
“That is therefore the earliest point at which a referendum would be appropriate.”

The Brexit timetable is very tight. The EU Commission, led by negotiator Michel Barnier,  said he would expect “an Article 50 deal reached by October 2018”. 

That means the terms of exit, the rights of EU and UK nationals, and what will happen next will have been decided by that point. 

Why is the final EU legal deadline March 2019?

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty gives exiting EU states up to two years to agree terms. Once a deal is agreed it has to be ‘ratified’, which means gaining the support of the UK and EU parliaments. This process will take months in total – so the EU aim to have a deal agreed in advance. There has to be an EU deal before ratification begins, so a deal has to be agreed in 2018 for Brexit to have any chance of meeting the deadline.

What if the Brexit talks fail?

This would be a calamity for the Tory Government. It would mean exiting the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms for trade – pushing up huge tariffs on UK goods, and threatening the stability of services. 

No deal would be an even clearer example of the threat from Tory Brexit to the Scottish economy, and make the case for independence stronger. 

Whatever the outcome, between Autumn of 2018 to the Spring of 2019, it will become clear what Scotland’s options will be. 

Picture courtesy of Sgoldswo

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