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Sport in Case of 'Brexit': Part 2

Posted: Mon, 25 Apr 2016 09:30

Sport in Case of 'Brexit': Part 2

So it's 24 June and the country has voted for Brexit and the Prime Minister has said that firstly, he will notify the European Council immediately of Britain's withdrawal from the EU and secondly, that he will remain in office to negotiate the withdrawal settlement.

There are good reasons to think that neither of these is likely.

Firstly it would not be in the UK's best interests to notify the Council of Europe immediately because it sets the 2-year exit clock ticking and given the sheer complexity of the exit negotiation it would be in the UK's interests to buy as much time as possible.

Secondly, the Prime Minister's position would be in jeopardy because the nation will be divided into two highly polarised camps. The Eurosceptic camp, whilst pleased with the referendum result, would be extremely unhappy with the notion of David Cameron negotiating the exit deal on their behalf and a disaffected population of pro-Europeans will wish to exact a swift coup de grace as the first step in making the road to Brexit as bumpy as possible.

It's my view that a leave vote in the referendum will lead to the Prime Minister's resignation on or soon after 24 June because he will realise his position is untenable and in any case he will not want his signature on the withdrawal document as the defining act of his political career.

The more likely outcome is both a delay in notification to the EU and a Tory leadership election which in itself may lead to resignations and possibly a loss of the majority in the House of Commons.

The exit negotiation is therefore very likely to be conducted by a new Prime Minister and with a delayed trigger date. Also given the sheer complexity of the exit negotiation and a reluctance to set the timer going on the Section 50 two year time frame it is possible that the first action in the negotiation process will be a request to the European Council for an agreed extension of time prior to exit notification. The government's own estimates suggest 10 years is necessary, to which, the EU is unlikely to agree but perhaps a 5-year negotiation period might make be possible.

With this general picture the referendum outcomes fall into 3 categories:

  1. Remain – no change.
  2. Leave – exit period extended to between 5-10 years with negotiated settlement in terms of trade, tariffs, access to markets, movement of people, services, goods and capital.
  3. Leave – exit triggered with the exit period restricted to 2 years, failure to form an exit agreement and expulsion from EU with exclusion from the internal market and the obligations under the Treaties.

Outcome 2 might be thought of as the 'Norway' scenario and outcome 3 might be thought of as the 'Russia' scenario.

At this stage it's worth reflecting on the purpose of the EU which is to advantage the people of its member States and to create a level playing field for trade and other activities pursued in common and within the EU along with sets of protocols which are designed to facilitate common enterprise.

The EU also has a policy of good neighbourliness but it necessarily puts the interests of members before external countries. A post Brexit UK will therefore inevitably be at some kind of disadvantage in dealings with the EU.

In a nutshell the more closely an external country aligns its legislation and polices with with the EU Treaties the more favourable the relationship becomes approaching something close to parity, as if it were an EU country. The Norway scenario can be thought of in this way, Norway conducts itself as if it were a member of the EU and pays accordingly. Russia on the other hand does not align itself and its relationship is governed by restrictions, embargoes and tariffs.

So in respect of sport the UK will have to decide to what extent it develops sports policy to align with the EU treaties.

The Russia model would leave the UK committed to conformity with international federations, associations and other bodies along with continuing compliance with WADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The UK would however have the freedom to structure its own rules in respect of State aid, movement of people, goods, services and capital in the same way that Russia does.

The Norway model would in all probability lead to the development of a comprehensive sports policy enshrined in a Sport Act, mirroring the Lisbon Treaty and creating provisions in respect of competence in sport. Additionally other legislation would be necessary to ensure compatibility and reciprocity in respect of issues such as State aid, and the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

To summarise, a Brexit vote is likely to lead to one of two models, a simple Russia model with the UK able to write its own rules but remaining compliant with international sporting association codes and a Norway model with Sports legislation passed to mirror the Treaty of Lisbon along with reciprocal free movement provisions.

In the next blog I will explore what these two scenarios might entail for associations, clubs, individuals and companies and look at some of the tensions which might be set up both within the UK and externally.

Steve Lawrence is an English architect and co-founder of a football data analytics and spatial development consultancy with clients including AFC Ajax, Amsterdam and Cruyff Football, Barcelona.

Tags: Policy, Sport

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