How Brexit pans out affects us all
Hopefully, there will be flexibility on each side so that a deal can be struck that benefits Britain, the European Union and the rest of the world
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, after a shock referendum result last June, was followed by months of uncertainty. No one seemed to know how this would be achieved or what form it would take. Prime Minister Theresa May did not help by resorting to the pointless phrase: “Brexit means Brexit.” There was a desperate need for clarity. May’s long-awaited speech last week, which set out her vision for Britain’s departure, is therefore welcome. The 12-point plan revealed a “hard” Brexit. Britain will leave the single market and no longer be subject to the rulings of the EU’s court. A clean break was inevitable given that May has put immigration control at the forefront of her Brexit policy. Any notion that Britain could continue to enjoy the benefits of the single market while rejecting freedom of movement for EU citizens is misconceived. She has proposed a selective approach to immigration, seeking to attract talents from around the world, while taking tight control over who is allowed to enter the country. Her promise that Britain will continue to work closely with its European allies in many areas, including security, is encouraging. As is her pledge to phase measures in, once a deal has been reached.
May spoke of uniting the UK, but a hard Brexit will only fuel moves towards Scottish independence, as most people in Scotland favour remaining in the EU. The reality is that tough negotiations lie ahead. Britain hopes to be able to secure access to the internal market for various sectors, especially financial services. This will not be easy to achieve. The EU will not allow Britain to leave on terms which are so favourable they might tempt other countries to follow suit . Britain will not be permitted to cherry-pick the parts of the EU it likes.
The UK offers a valuable export market for some EU nations, so will have a certain amount of leverage. But it will be very difficult for May to strike a deal that meets all the objectives she laid out in her speech. A hard Brexit is likely to have a negative impact on Britain’s economy, despite talks to secure trade deals with non-EU countries and the prime minister’s bold vision of Britain becoming a “great, global trading nation”. Two banks have already announced plans to move jobs out of the UK.
The negotiations will be intense and complex. May’s threat that Britain might become a tax haven if it does not get what it wants, is not helpful. Perhaps that is just an opening gambit ahead of the talks. It is to be hoped there will be understanding and flexibility on each side so that a deal can be struck that benefits Britain, the European Union and the rest of the world.