If Britain votes to leave the EU on Thursday, it’ll be final. Irreversible. Irrevocable. No appeals. No second chances.
“Out is out,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters Wednesday.
“You can’t jump out of the airplane and then clamber back into the cockpit,” is how British Prime Minister David Cameron put it in a radio interview a few hours earlier.
But what if a vote to leave weren’t really that final or dramatic? Some experts are wondering whether Britain can ever really free itself from the European Union — even if voters strongly endorse hitting the eject button. Others say it’s not out of the question that Brits could find themselves going back to the ballot box in a few years’ time if buyer’s remorse sets in.
“The EU is a bit like the Hotel California in the Eagles song,” said Tim Oliver, a fellow at the London School of Economics’ IDEAS foreign policy think tank. “You can check out anytime but you never really leave.”
Much of the uncertainty stems from the ambiguity about what a British exit, or Brexit, really means. Abandoning Europe could mean anything from a sweeping withdrawal from EU institutions to more limited opt-outs which could leave major pillars of European integration, such as free movement of labor, untouched.
“‘Leave’ could mean a million different things,” Oliver said, giving Britain’s political establishment considerable scope to loiter in Europe’s lobby as euroskeptics argue over where the exits are.
Experts say there might be even more room for maneuver in the months and years following an “out” vote.
In theory, a two-year countdown goes into effect after a European country formally notifies its partners of its intention to quit the union, but complex international negotiations routinely run on for years and the parties involved could let the deadline lapse as talks drag on, perhaps even past Britain’s 2020 parliamentary elections.
Share This Article…
Another way to make it happen