EU Referendum

Brexit nightmare or brave new world? MailOnline looks at what the future could hold for the UK if we vote OUT on June 23

  • If voters back Brexit, David Cameron will have to outline the Government’s battle plan for untangling itself from the EU’s institutions
  • Triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is the only formal way out
  • That would set two-year period for negotiating new trade arrangements
  • Cameron will almost certainly resign as PM, paving the way for Boris
  • Pro-EU MPs could try to block us leaving single market despite Brexit vote 
  • See more of the latest EU referendum news at

The end of Western civilisation could be coming after the EU referendum on June 23, with the continent descending into war and pensioners going hungry, according to the Remain campaign.

Or we could be embarking on a path to an enlightened era of prosperous global trade, freed from the shackles of unelected Brussels bureaucracy, says the opposite side.

Whichever side of the European argument you fall, the only certainty seems to be that things will be pretty lively.

Here MailOnline explores the potential scenarios for our future – and how they might affect you.

David Cameron would appear outside Downing Street in the early hours of June 24 to admit defeat
David Cameron would appear outside Downing Street in the early hours of June 24 to admit defeat 5am, June 24

A shattered David Cameron would appear outside 10 Downing Street to concede defeat.

The Prime Minister will promise to implement the wishes of the British people, even though it means a course of action that he has equated to detonating a ‘bomb’ under the economy.

But his speech will be necessarily short on detail.

Only semi-independent Greenland has quit the EU before, and that was 30 years ago when the island had a population of just 56,000.

It can be argued that Algeria left too – when it stopped being part of France in the 1960s.

Mr Cameron is expected to confirm that he will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the legal process for leaving the 28 nation bloc.

But Mr Cameron may not say exactly when the process will be invoked, as the government will want to keep its options open.

Formally notifying fellow EU leaders of our intention to exit starts the clock on a two-year period during which we have to negotiate a new set of arrangements in areas such as trade, justice and reciprocal visas.

The UK can leave earlier than that if terms are easily found.

But if there is no deal by the end of the time we will be outside without any special provisions – meaning much higher trade tariffs.

Some Leave campaigners have suggested we would not use Article 50 at all as it would put our negotiators at a disadvantage. Instead we could try to force the EU to strike a deal without imposing a time limit – but that could depend on whether other states were willing to play ball.

European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has already warned that ‘deserters’ will not be treated kindly.

The PM could well hold off on a dramatic announcement about his own future in the immediate aftermath of a Brexit vote – although it is almost impossible that his premiership will be able to survive the defeat for long.

The Cabinet and government’s Cobra emergency committee will meet to discuss the situation before financial markets open.

They are likely to issue another statement designed to minimise turmoil as panicking traders send sterling lower and the FTSE slumps.

The Treasury, Bank of England and European Central Bank have contingency plans in place to shore up the currency and inject liquidity to banks to ensure the system keeps working.

Meanwhile, EU President Donald Tusk will summon an emergency summit of all member states in Brussels within days.

Britain would become the first fully-signed up member of the European Union to quit if voters back Brexit in the June 23 referendum. Only Greenland has left the union and that was more than 30 years ago, when the union was called the European Community

A month on 

The Parliamentary recess is due to start at the end of July, but there is little chance anyone at Westminster will be taking a holiday.

After six weeks the period for legal challenge to the referendum result comes to an end – which could be important if the vote is nail-bitingly close.

Sterling is expected to drop in the short term at least, hitting holiday makers and importers but helping exporters.

The FTSE could also be significantly lower as investment dries up pending clarity on the shape of the new trading and border arrangements.

Mr Cameron could stay on as Prime Minister – but probably only as a caretaker while a Tory leadership contest takes place. Brexit champion Boris Johnson would almost certainly emerge victorious.

The premier would be able to lead the response to the long-awaited Iraq Inquiry report on July 6, and attend a Nato summit shortly afterwards.

But he is likely to become irrelevant to the main workings of government, as the machine focuses on the task of organising the UK’s new status.

The civil service has been quietly contingency planning for the possibility of our departure, with every department set to be affected by the seismic changes.

David Cameron (left) will tell European Council President Donald Tusk (right) and EU leaders of Briain's desire to leave if he loses the vote on June 23

Having been so closely associated with the Remain campaign, it is almost inconceivable that Mr Cameron would be regarded as a credible head negotiator.

It is possible that another, Brexit-supporting minister such as Michael Gove could be appointed to oversee the work.

Chancellor George Osborne, who would share in Mr Cameron’s ignominious defeat, also face being sidelined along with other prominent pro-EU figures like Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could struggle to hang on to his job after criticism of his half-hearted campaign.

The cracks could quickly start to show in the rest of the EU, as other countries wonder whether they too can forge another course outside the club.

EU council president Donald Tusk has questioned whether the Brussels club – and indeed ‘Wetern civilisation’ – can survive Brexit.

And senior figures such as German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble have also admitted the grouping will be significantly weakened.

Political turmoil will be perhaps the biggest threat to the UK.

Around three quarters of MPs support EU membership, and some are already considering how that weight of numbers can be used to limit the impact.

At some point the House of Commons will have to repeal the legislation that underpins our ties to the Brussels club.

The possible ‘nuclear option’ of blocking that move could be used as a bargaining chip in a battle over whether to stay in the single market.

A Government minister warned the idea was ‘not fantasy’ and would be based on the argument Vote Leave have failed to put a specific alternative deal on the single market and the wider economy to the country.

Legally speaking a guerrilla war is easy – the European Union, the single market and its rules are written into scores of laws. Quitting the EU will need many of them to be re-written.

David Cameron would probably stay on in Number 10 until a swiftly-held Conservative leadership contest can be held - most likely to be won by leading Brexit campaigners like Boris Johnson (right) or Michael Gove (left)

Every one of these – from the main European Communities Act 1972 down to an array of minor statutory instruments – would need some form of Commons vote to change.

Constitutionally, the idea might be more difficult. But if battle in the lobbies of the Commons was joined it would be reminiscent of the guerrilla war which ruined the premiership of Sir John Major.

Then, every vote was dangerous as he had such a narrow Commons majority.

The Brexit-backing successor to Mr Cameron would fare no better defending an official majority of just 17 when around 140 Tory MPs opposed Brexit.

Vote Leave have repeatedly insisted during the campaign that we should exit the single market – a free trade area for goods and services – and establish a bespoke package of terms.

Full membership of the area could involve contributing to the Brussels budget and accepting the principle of freedom of movement, which would hamper the ability of UK ministers to bring immigration under control.

Iain Duncan Smith has said that MPs who ignore the will of the people expressed in the referendum and attempt to block Brexit would trigger a ‘constitutional crisis’.

If the paralysis could not be solved, it would probably mean a snap general election which could look in many ways very much like a re-run of the referendum campaign.

A Brexit vote would almost certainly lead to David Cameron departing as Prime Minister, paving the way for Boris Johnson (pictured) to achieve his goal of taking over the top job
A Brexit vote would almost certainly lead to David Cameron departing as Prime Minister, paving the way for Boris Johnson (pictured) to achieve his goal of taking over the top job

Two years on 

By June 2018 the real consequences of the Brexit should be getting clearer.

According to controversial Treasury forecasts, the UK economy would be 6 per cent smaller by this point than if we had chosen to stay in.

Mr Osborne’s officials also predicted that up to 800,000 more people will be unemployed, sterling would be worth 15 per cent less and inflation nearly 3 per cent higher.

The basis for such claims has been flatly dismissed during the referendum campaign, with Leave supporters branding them part of Project Fear.

If negotiations go well, the UK may already have exited the EU gracefully with an amicable agreement that allows low-tariff trade with the bloc.

We could have resumed our seat on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and secured new deals with the emerging powerhouse economies.

If negotiations have not gone well, there could be just a short while to go until the Lisbon Treaty deadline that means we exit with no arrangements or access to the single market beyond the basic international rules.

The only way of extending the period for talks with the EU – which will be led on their behalf by Mr Juncker – would be a unanimous vote of all 27 other EU states.

While we will have a clearer picture of whether Mr Cameron was right or wrong by this point, his spell in Downing Street will be long over.

There may also have been a significant realignment of the political parties, with the Tories potentially having suffered permanent damage from the ferocity of the EU row.

British politics will look massively different.

Decades on

Mr Cameron said during the campaign that leaving the EU would result in a ‘decade of uncertainty’.

But by 2030 the dust surely must have settled.

The Treasury’s longer-term forecasts have claimed that the economy could be up to 9.5 per cent smaller within 15 years, compared to if we had stayed in the bloc.

Shared evenly across the country, that would mean a loss per household of £6,600.

But many experts have pointed out that making such predictions so far into the future is almost impossible.

As Mr Tusk has admitted, Brexit could be earthquake that triggers the disintegration of Brussels club, which is already under intense pressure from the eurozone and migration crisis.

The bloc’s share of global GDP is already expected to reduce as China, India and other economies like Indonesia grow.

But only time will tell whether the decision to leave the EU was foresight or foolhardiness.

David Cameron defends EU deal to MPs in Parliament

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