The political economy of Brexit

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Even in the negotiation process, millions of Brits already felt the impact of Brexit and well realised the fact that the political economy of Brexit is not a one-time referendum ballot box fun. Sarcastically enough, very recently, tens of thousands of Brits who were mainly voted “leave” out on the streets of London demanding the repeat of the referendum, so that they will stop UK to leave the European Union.
It is evident that the negotiation of Brexit, the formal divorce of UK from the European Union is seriously challenged the government of Prime Minister Theresa May and her leadership ability. Last week, her Foreign Affairs Minister and one of the chief architect of Brexit, Boris Johnson and her Chief Brexit Negotiator David Davis resigned from their post in protest of her handling of the whole negotiation process of Brexit. To put salt on her wound, President Donald Trump of the United States openly mocked her for not accepting his “advise and act accordingly” in his interview during his official visit of UK last week.
Historical documents shows the fact that all “Gaul”, an ancient region of Europe, corresponding to modern France, Belgium, part of the Netherlands, Germany, and northern Italy, is divided into three parts is how Julius Caesar began the first book of his “Gallic Wars”. Brexit Britain, like Gaul, is also divided into three parts.
Professor John Burton of Leeds University stated that the House of Commons is also divided into three tribes – Tory loyalists who vote for anything Prime Minister Theresa May wants. Labour Loyalist who back Jeremy Corbyn’s line which is as close to Prime Minister May as makes no difference. And independent Tory and Labour Member of Parliament (MPs) ready to put national interest before party tribalism. They are the swing MPs who in early skirmishes in the House of Commons made clear there will not be a majority for a No Deal or Crash-out Brexit.
According to Professor John Burton, Tories will not vote with Corbyn to defeat Prime Minister May to profit Labour politically as was seen recently. However, if the Labour leadership recalibrates its Brexit line to speak for the majority in Britain that wants the softest of Brexits it can influence national policy. Meanwhile the contours of the Brexit triptych are becoming clearer.
On the political aspect of Brexit, UK will leave the EU Treaty on March 29, 2019. From then on, no more UK ministers, no more UK Member of European Parliament (MEPs), and no UK Commissioner take any part in deciding EU rules, laws and policies. The UK thus forfeits not just its voice and vote, but in some cases also a veto.
Michal Makocki, a Senior Associate Fellow at the EU Institute of Security Studies (EUISS) stated that after political Brexit has occurred, the House of Commons takes back control. One of its first acts might be to uphold the core commercial interests of Britain throughout the ages, namely to keep open trade access for anything produced in Britain. The Commons could agree, for example, to stay in the Customs Union on a five-year renewable basis.
Regarding the economic or commercial Brexit, the key question here is as follows: How deep and how fast does the UK want a rupture with just-in-time-deliveries, customs free exports of made in Britain Nissans or Airbus wings or TV shows, or an end to foreign direct investment firms based in London?
Michal Makocki argued that, that may very well involve rupturing direct, unfettered access to the giant European market of half a billion middle class consumers and every public contract open to tender from the UK. At this stage, few still take seriously the idea of coming up with a trade deal with President Trump’s protectionist America. Things look no better with India, another large potential market. India’s top trade demand is visa liberalization for 1.3 billion Indians, a show stopper for any Brexiteer.
According to Michal Makocki, nothing stops the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox who is a lifelong anti-European, turning his department into an export-promotion power-house, but reason ought to prevail. Rest assured that the task can be accomplished without breaking with the EU Single Market or Customs Union.
Once political Brexit is consummated, commercial Brexit will seem less and less necessary. To begin with, during the transition period into 2021 and the possible prolongation Prime Minister May has asked for into 2023, there will be endless talks about every sector of Britain’s commercial relationship with its neighbors. Problems like freedom of movement will need careful handling.
In the end, something like along the lines of the relationship that Norway enjoys with the EU will emerge, though it will be called something else, probably a deep and wide association agreement. It won’t be easy to get there. Just consider that both pro and anti-Brexit advocates use the term “vassal state” to describe a Britain that, like Norway or to some extent Switzerland, trades openly with Europe. But it will be done.
Professor William Welsh of Michigan University stated that it is certainly regrettable that, as it stands, no ministers, elected British politicians or officials will ever again attend any meeting where the nations of Europe decide the EU rule-book. However, Britain with its global reach, professional military and deep intelligence networks can be an active bilateral player. According to Professor William Welsh, solution to problems like Galileo or keeping the European Arrest Warrant can be found if they are taken off today’s hothouse Brexit agenda and left to be resolved in what will be a continuing relationship with the EU over the next period.
Like Caesar’s Gaul, Brexit is divided up into three parts. In this case yielding a political Out, a commercial In, a geo-political contact and bilateral partnerships. This is workable, but still second-best. Given that the former Brexit Minister David Davis says: “A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy,” one wonders whether the British people will not be accorded a chance to change their mind once the real-life results of the June 2016 plebiscite are ready for all to see.
Much will depend on the EU’s economic growth and political stability in the period 2019-2024 over which Britain has no control. Brexit is for today, but not necessarily forever.