Article by Rafael Behr
The “Brexit” brigade tends to present rupture from Brussels as a clean break; the final step in a long journey of emancipation. Released from the shackles of continental bureaucracy, the UK can then contemplate a fresh life of buccaneering, free-trading, independent enterprise.
But one of the first things that the newly liberated country would have to do is negotiate terms of trade with its former EU partners. And in order to do that it would have to enter into all sorts of agreements – on trading standards, subsidies, safety regulations, contract enforcements, etc – that very closely resemble the single market of which the UK is currently a member.
The Brexit scenario involves opting out of everything in order to selectively opt back into lots of things, which is exactly the model currently being played out with the arrest warrant. Under the Lisbon treaty the UK negotiated a right not to sign up to the full justice and home affairs “pillar” of EU law on the understanding that it would pick and mix those items it deemed essential. Unsurprisingly, some of those turn out to involve a greater degree of cross-border collaboration and legal harmonisation because, well, it’s the 21st century and that’s how globalised economies and societies function effectively together.