In comparison to UK information chaos, by June 2016 the EU had published procedures and guidelines. TF50 was ready to go, and they had demonstrated a perfect example of legal information creation. The EU website is in English and cross referenced, whilst documents and summaries are shared immediately. Reliable external sources include the Institute of Government and Centre for EU Reform.
If the UK government has been a total information failure, the UK parliament has remained consistently excellent. Papers and research published by Select Committees have been good quality. The Q&As, expert evidence and the libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords are all valuable resources. The parliamentary library teams present at BIALL were thanked wholeheartedly.
How useful is the press as a reliable source? It has highlighted the political divide in the country and there has been some harmful reporting. It seems that the UK lobby system is failing the general public; journalists can only report on the information they are given. Some of the best reporting has been in the Irish and EU press. Many reporters have taken to Twitter so there are pockets of accessible, balanced, and reliable information.
This is a messy divorce and certain challenges seem to be insurmountable. The examples David gave were the Irish border question, and the loss of trust between the UK and EU. The EU thinks the UK will renege on any deal and the UK government has given them cause for concern. The EU have rightly looked after Irish interests and the UK is facing a ‘hard border in the island of Ireland’ which could have terrible consequences for Anglo-Irish relations.
The current political focus means that some people want Brexit at any cost. The suggestion of proroguing parliament at this time is irresponsible when there is so much legislation needed to get a deal through parliament. We ended the talk with some grave questions. Many BIALL members are part of British territories overseas – we just don’t know how it is going to affect the country and its broader associations in the long term. We hope that BIALL will exist in 50 years, but the UK as it stands now is more uncertain. We are heading into the unknown and we shouldn’t take our precarious union for granted.