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Brexit Time

Leaving the EU - Why, How and When?

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Brexit Time by Kenneth A. Armstrong
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The result of the UK referendum in June 2016 on membership of the European Union had immediate repercussions across the UK, the EU and internationally. As the dust begins to settle, attention is now naturally drawn to understanding why this momentous decision came about and how and when the UK will leave the EU. What are the options for the new legal settlements between the UK and the EU? What will happen to our current political landscape within the UK in the time up to and including its exit from the EU? What about legal and political life after Brexit? Within a series of short essays, Brexit Time explores and contextualises each stage of Brexit in turn: pre-referendum; the result; the process of withdrawal; rethinking EU relations; and post-Brexit. During a time of intense speculation and commentary, this book offers an indispensable guide to the key issues surrounding a historic event and its uncertain aftermath.
Cambridge University Press; June 2017
310 pages; ISBN 9781108245807
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Title: Brexit Time
Author: Kenneth A. Armstrong
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An appreciation Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE of “The Barrister”

Professor Kenneth A. Armstrong is a brave man to write this short, succinct and subtle statement on “Brexit Time - leaving the EU - Why, How and When?” at this particular time: the summer of 2017. We have now entered the complexities of minority government after the General Election in June 2017 and a further indication of mass confusion over the EU continues.

We suppose “Brexit Time” is better than “Brexit Space” as though we are travelling to a distant sun... even though to many of us it seems such a journey, possibly taking longer as the leaders continue to argue on the quarter-deck with no one in real control!

Some of us had thought (hopefully) that we might be hearing a bit less of Brexit by now with a thumping Tory/Liberal/Labour majority (in your dreams) but no – this beauty is staunchly with us for the duration and “Brexit Time” fits in well with all the sage publications we are building up on this momentous event in “minority government space”.

So, what is this book about and when, how and why is it helpful? It’s described as offering “an indispensable guide to the key issues”, contextualizing each stage of our exit and what is going to happen afterwards. The author has an impeccable pedigree from the Centre for European Legal Studies at Cambridge and as a Fellow of Sidney Sussex and Queen Mary, London and expressing himself brilliantly (expect nothing less from Cambridge). “Brexit Time” is a delight to read at a time of huge uncertainty and a stalemate in British politics.

Armstrong introduces his book saying that the argument advanced is that Brexit was not the UK’s ‘manifest destiny’. He writes in the introduction that it was a choice and “like all choices, it was a product of a variety of forces and the structures that mediate those forces” with one of those structures being time itself.

The saddest thing about the book (apart from the fact that it had to be written at all) is that no politicians will read it or take any notice of it mainly because they think they have the answers... which, of course, they do not. Professor Armstrong does have some answers and some humility. He says of Brexit that any analysis is “extremely exposing of the gaps in our knowledge”. Absolutely right!

He then compounds the fracture by fairly admitting (as we should all do) that “the period since the referendum has been humbling” and that he is all too happy to acknowledge that in the process of writing the book that he has “learned a great deal”. And we can gratefully say that Armstrong is one of the experts who “thought he knew a reasonable amount about the EU”. So, it just goes to show how little we know! But this book does help our knowledge.

“Brexit Time” is an objective and clear statement of where we are in the middle of 2017 where party politics can change matters and outlooks very, very quickly. Armstrong’s final words are worth consideration: “in different times and in different locations, choices are made that shape Brexit”.

It should be compulsory reading for all Parliamentarians, civil servants and that special adviser army of political foot soldiers as we enter the next phase of Euro exit - if they can be bothered to read it, that is, with the rest of us.

We have just had another dent in the timeline with a minority government so Armstrong’s conclusion is prescient where he says, “these choices have causes and they have consequences”. They certainly do! He finishes with “these are choices in time, and of time” and that, of course, is the problem and the conundrum which we face as the author tracks, in 300 pages and good footnotes, where we must go in this modified time line… as it is surely modified further.