The votes are in…

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.

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In the final analysis, the British electorate has voted to leave the European Union. Over the last few months the polls have reflected a gradual shift towards leaving, so today’s results are, in some way, unsurprising. I don’t think I’m alone, however, in registering concern at the outcome of this referendum.

As I said in a previous blog post, the implications of the path that has been chosen concern me. The very real prospect of negative impact on our economy; the re-writing of 40 years’ worth of rules and regulations; the potential threat to our security that leaving might pose. All of these give me cause for concern.

The EU has changed dramatically from the one that originally comprised six founding states – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. As I said previously, with 28 members the issues and complexities surrounding union are greater than before, and can often seem intractable. Yet the EU is, to a great degree, the ”devil we know.”

So, while these are very much early days, pulling out of the EU may now throw the nation into a period of prolonged disruption, for no clear advantage. It’s for this reason that I stated my position to be a “reluctant European”.

What’s next?

In terms of next steps, the referendum provides a clear indication of the people’s wishes, but in itself does not trigger the departure from the EU. Unlike the 2011 referendum on electoral reform, which included an obligation on the government to legislate in the event of a “yes”, the concrete results of today’s news have no legal consequence.

The referendum clearly provides a mandate, however, for those that wish to leave the union. The next steps therefore will require the UK Government to invoke chapter 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is the mechanism by which EU members may leave the union.

Crucially, the manner of achieving this is down to the member. I cannot imagine that the Government would take such a significant step without some form of parliamentary approval, although this presents a challenge at the very first hurdle – for a parliamentary vote on the referendum results might be taken as an attempt to overturn the ‘will of the people’.

Given that some mechanism is found to ratify the decision supported by the referendum, article 50 then allows the UK two years to negotiate a mutually acceptable withdrawal from the EU. Whether this is achievable in that timeframe is questionable – but the two-year deadline is a ‘hard stop’ to proceedings.

Looking much further into the future, I remain concerned about what we have let ourselves in for. There is a mass of legislation in place that will need to be repealed and replaced. These rules cover important regulations that govern our industry, and others, and to which all organisations currently work.

For example, The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) is our implementation of the European Union Business Transfers Directive.  Will it be ripped up and renegotiated, causing uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace?

As David Allen Green wrote in the Financial Times (£) shortly before the referendum:

“The task of repeal and replacement will take years to complete, if it is ever completed. Even if the key legislation — especially the European Communities Act 1972 — is repealed there will have to be holding and saving legislation for at least a political generation.”

Regular readers know my views on bureaucracy. I am usually first in line with the matches when it comes to a bonfire of red tape. But I wonder if we appreciate the scale and complexity of what we are embarking on – and the uncertainty that our voyage will create?

One thought on “The votes are in…

  1. Peter, I have looked into my crystal ball, and I have seen a new union in Europe evolving, one that does not have all the outrageous waste that comes under the disguise of bureaucracy, one that is modern and forward thinking and allows each country to have a national identity, but also has an understanding of our European neighbours idiosyncrasies. I truly believe that the UK vote out is not a statement that we don’t want to be part of Europe but a wake up call to the whole of Europe that the current EU set up is not fit for purpose and needs a radical change. The UK has made a serious decision that I wholeheartedly support, and I see this as the start of a bright future for both the UK and Europe. Democracy is a very precious asset and we need to make the most of it.

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