“Brexit is a long-term act of national diminishment…We have the best deal in Europe. Let’s keep it.”
Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Law and Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the University of Liverpool, held the packed audience at Bath for Europe’s event hanging on his every word. Michael Dougan is renowned as a constitutional lawyer and an excellent teacher. He displayed these skills, along with his sense of humour, in his lucid, informative and engaging talk at the Widcombe Social Club on 14th March. He gave a detailed analysis of what has happened since the Referendum. He concluded by sketching out the UK’s prospects, given the government’s lack of preparedness, gross mishandling of the negotiations and fantastical claims. “There is a continuing reality vacuum in the UK,” he said.
Dougan began by laying out the contextual background for his argument. He was resolute in condemning the government’s handling of each and every phase of the Brexit negotiations which he dissected in detail: separation, transition and future relations with the EU. He highlighted how the Northern Ireland/Irish border is an insoluble problem; the government has promised irreconcilable things to different people.
Dougan painted a bleak and frightening picture of where the UK stands now and what it faces in a post-Brexit future. For example, the French authorities of the Port of Calais anticipate a permanent log jamb of traffic stretching 20 miles on the English side of the Channel and 30 miles on the French side.
He said that the only way out of Brexit is for moderate Tories and Labour MPs to take charge. The people of the UK need to show their politicians that they have shifted from Leave to Remain. He described the UK government’s position vis-à-vis the EU: “We want our cake, we want you to serve it to us, and we will blame you when we run out of cake.” In Dougan’s view, we are not just fighting Brexit in the UK; we are fighting for the fundamental values of our country. “You don’t give an inch to proto-Fascists,” he stated.
Professor Graham Room, Professor of European Social Policy at the University of Bath, chaired the wide-ranging question and answer session following Michael’s talk which took in a number of topics, from Henry VIII powers to the movement of goods and people. Bath for Europe will post a video of Michael Dougan’s talk soon.