TW Viewpoint | How Will The UK Fare After Brexit?April 12, 2019 | Michael Heykoop
June 24, 2016, the results of the referendum are announced and the world is left stunned. 17.4 million Citizens of the United Kingdom made known that they wanted out of the E.U. Most prognosticators had foretold a decisive victory for the "remain" side, the side which lost by nearly 1.3 million votes. No one knew what to expect next. Questions on customs, tariffs, treaties and more desperately needed answers. Nearly 3 years later . . . those questions remain unanswered.
How will the United Kingdom fare post Brexit? This is the multi-billion dollar, pound or euro question. Many of those who supported and campaigned for Brexit billed it as a cure-all which will leave the United Kingdom near problem free in short order. Many of those staunchly opposed to Brexit have been forecasting certain disaster. Much of the success or failure will depend on the single word which served as the strongest reason Brexiteers voted to leave the E.U.—"Sovereignty"
Sovereignty is a nation's authority to govern itself. According to a poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft Polls published the same day the referendum results were made public, the three leading reasons for a voter to cast their ballot in favour of Brexit were:
- The principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.
- Voting to leave offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.
- Remaining meant little or no choice about how the EU expanded its membership or powers.
To understand Brexit, one must understand how the United Kingdom's sovereignty began to come into question in the first place. For more than 60 years the European Economic Community—later rebranded as the European Union—has sought greater integration between the nations of Europe. The primary, initial goal was obvious—to prevent another great European war by binding these countries together. It began with just 6 nations, and has now ballooned to 28. A trading bloc, evolved into a customs union, then free-trade zone, and now a union with its own parliament, courts, central bank, currency, and defence agency.
With each decision made, every new committee appointed and every directive implemented, more decisions were being made in Brussels on behalf of 500 million EU citizens, and less in London on behalf of 65 million citizens of the United Kingdom. No doubt there have been benefits to working within a larger bloc. However, the belief of those in favour of Brexit is that by focusing on laws, immigration policy and trade agreements with the specific needs of the United Kingdom at the forefront will result in more favourable results than those that have to take into account all 28 member states.
Whether the United Kingdom stumbles or thrives will now depend on the decisions made in London rather than the EU parliament. Without the clout of a 500 million person strong economy, will London be able to negotiate better trade deals with other nations, include with the EU, than it previously held as a member of the union? Will it be able to better regulate business, or will trade agreements with larger entities result in more stringent regulation? case?
The ultimate question is: Can the British government make wise decisions and negotiate favourable trade agreements? As a nation, they appear to be a little out of practice. Brexit itself is the largest international decision the United Kingdom has made since the end of the Second World War. I say this because integration with Europe was many big decisions made over time, while leaving was one monumental decision made very quickly.
In the two years following the triggering of Article 50—the declaration to Europe that the U.K. intended to be out in two years—Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with Europe to decide just what Brexit would look like. Does Brexit mean leaving all the European Agreements or just some of them? The ones it does leave, are they left immediately, or with a transition period? What happens with the Ireland-Northern Ireland border? The problem is, she also had to get her plan through Parliament in the U.K. where it was voted on, and failed three times. The third failure occurred despite May's promise to step down from office if MPs agreed to her deal.
A no-deal Brexit is becoming increasingly likely. In this event the U.K. would leave the E.U. and begin immediately as a blank slate with no transition period. Almost all ties would instantly be severed. That would mean re-working countless agreements and establishing a bevy of new laws. What happens in the period while those arrangements are made is anyone's guess. While some are pushing for a no-deal Brexit, believing it will ultimately provide the UK with the level of sovereignty it desires, the short term prospects for such an event will no doubt be messy. An integrated economy cannot be de-integrated overnight.
Conversely, there are some making a last-ditch effort to overturn the will of more than 17 million voters through a second referendum or a parliamentary decision to cancel Brexit.
On March 26, 2019 the Guardian ran the results of a study in its headline: "Just 7% of UK public thinks government has handled Brexit well"
Clearly the UKs first steps toward full sovereignty have not been without hiccups. For better, or for worse, once Brexit is fully enacted, these decisions will be for the UK alone to make. Let's hope the learning curve is a quick one.