Brexit: We Asked 18 of the World's Leading Experts What Happens Next

Pro-EU supporters wave flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, Britain, July 4, 2018.REUTERS/Simon Dawson
September 13, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Europe Tags: BritainBrexitEuropean UnionEconomyParliament

Brexit: We Asked 18 of the World's Leading Experts What Happens Next

A National Interest Symposium.

Under the most likely UK White Paper-based outcomes, the EU27-UK relationship would look a bit like that of the EU with Turkey in the recent past (before things went downhill there). There is likely to be free trade in goods but not in services, and no free movement of individuals. Under a crashing out, only general WTO obligations would remain, and the UK would have to put forward its own WTO commitments. One hopes that EU27-UK cooperation could continue in defense, law enforcement, and more. Research cooperation under H2020 could continue even in a crashing out scenario, assuming that the future UK-EU27 relationship is cooperative.

Anand Menon is a professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs and author of Brexit and British Politics.

Brexit has taken its toll on Britain. It has profoundly disrupted its politics and significant elements of its constitutional settlement. In addition, while the economic impact of the decision to leave the European Union was not as profound, nor as immediate, as government forecasts had suggested it might be, that impact is starting to be felt and forecasts concerning the impact of actually leaving the EU make for grim reading.

That being said, there is little prospect of the decision being reversed. Opinion polls show little if any evidence of a widespread change of heart among those who voted for Brexit. The British people remain more or less evenly divided with opinion, if anything, becoming more entrenched.

Thus, even in the (unlikely) event of another referendum, and even if (far from certain) the outcome of this were to be a vote to remain, this would only be by a narrow margin. In all likelihood, this would create significant political unrest, act as a fillip for populism, and ensure that the issue of EU membership continues to roil British politics for the foreseeable future. The UK thus faces an uncomfortable choice: an outcome that threatens to damage the national economy, and one that wreaks havoc with Britain’s politics. And, of course, the former itself will have disruptive political repercussions should leave voters feel that what they voted for has not been adequately delivered.

There are, then, no easy answers, which makes the current polarization and simplification of debate (Brexit is either all good or all bad) all the more frustrating. Much will hinge on the deal made with the EU, but current indications are that this will significantly disrupt trade with the UK’s largest trading partner, and hence the national economy. Even once it has left the EU, then, the UK will continue to be haunted by the implications of that fateful vote in 2016.

Robert Patman is professor of international relations at the University of Otago and principal editor of New Zealand and the world: Past, present, and future.

The tide is rapidly turning against Brexit in the UK. The brutal reality is that the May government will either have to accept the exit terms offered by the other twenty-seven members of the EU or embrace a catastrophic no-deal solution. The latter would, according to the UK Government’s own Department for Exiting the European Union and the Office of National Statistics, would lower the UK GDP by 8 percent or £158 billion ($304.6b) and cost 2.8 million jobs.

The key to the immediate future of UK-EU relations lies in the hands of the Eurosceptic Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. If Corbyn caves to mounting internal pressures within his party to stop backing Mrs. May’s Brexit policy and come out clearly against Brexit or at least back a second referendum on EU membership, then the UK is likely to remain in the EU.

It was always a stretch to claim a 3.8-point margin of victory for the “leave” camp in a non-binding referendum was sufficient justification for the greatest change in Britain’s external policy since World War II. But we now know the integrity of the EU referendum result was fundamentally tainted by illegal money, data crimes, and Russian involvement. Two key Brexit groups—Leave.EU and Vote Leave, headed by several cabinet ministers—were both found guilty by the UK Electoral Commission of serious violations of British electoral law, including a 10 percent overspend in a referendum contest decided by a margin of just 3.8 points.

All of this leads to but one clear conclusion: The June 2016 referendum did not provide a legitimate mandate for Brexit. Given large-scale cheating occurred during the EU referendum on June 23, 2016, the outcome of that referendum must be declared null and void, and a second referendum must be held to ensure a fair and free contest on the question of British membership of the EU.

The UK’s international reputation has been severely tarnished in Europe and beyond. Brexit is an own goal of monumental proportions. The idea that Britain could “go global” when it clearly failed to demonstrate any leadership amongst a community of twenty-seven like-minded democracies in its own backyard is both delusional and sad.

The May government’s announcement that Britain was leaving the EU has already had a serious impact on the UK economy. In the space of two years, the UK has gone from being one of the fastest growing economies in the EU to one of the slowest growing economies in Europe.

Even if Brexit does not happen, it will take the UK a long time to rebuild its relationship with the EU and repair the substantial damage it has inflicted on its own economy.

Eleonora Poli is a research fellow at the Istituto Affari Internazionali and author of Antitrust Institutions and Policies in the Globalising Economy.

Two years after the “in or out” referendum, Brexit looks more like a sword of Damocles hanging over the British cabinet and the EU. By October 2018, the UK government should agree upon a draft deal defining the future relations with the EU. Yet, chances are that Britain could leave the European Union without a deal in March 2019. A no-deal scenario must be avoided.

Brexit already represents a fundamental challenge for the European countries for at least two opposite reasons. Some fear an unprecedented EU integration process, led by France and Germany, once they get rid of UK skepticism. Others are concerned by the need to discourage a “Brexit domino effect” EU-wide and they do not wish for an extremely convenient Brexit deal for the UK. However, everyone is aware that a “no deal” would be unsustainable both politically, as it would discredit the Union, and economically, as it could worsen trade relationships by aggravating uncertainty.

A “no deal” would be bad for the UK as well, as it will not allow for a transition period up to 2020 to smoothly accompany the UK outside the Union with agreements on trade relations and sustainable options for the Irish border issue, intra-EU migration and the financial service market.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal for a softer Brexit, which could provide some access to the Common Market under the EU trade rules, has recently resulted in calls for a referendum on the exit deal, as it could undermine the independence of UK institutions vis-à-vis the EU. Yet, a second referendum might not impact significantly the chance of the UK to remain in the EU. To date, only the Liberal Democrats have a pro-European agenda, while no other political forces in the UK have formally adopted a pro-remain political strategy. Against this backdrop, a second plebiscite could result in the above-mentioned no deal, as it might push citizens to refuse the arrangement proposed and negotiated with the EU, without challenging the idea of leaving the European Union.

In conclusion, while no more cherry-picking of EU benefits will be allowed by the remaining member countries, which are convinced the UK already had the best possible EU membership deal, British government’s attempts to structure a profitable arrangement might result in a zero-sum game, which will satisfy neither the “Brexiters” nor the “Remainers.”

Thomas Sampson is an assistant professor of economists at London School of Economics.

Support for Brexit comes from a coalition of three groups: nation-state traditionalists, who view the EU’s supranational institutions as an undesirable restriction on UK sovereignty; free-market radicals, who want to reshape the UK’s economy along American lines by reducing regulation and cutting support for the welfare state; and voters who blame the EU for their dissatisfaction with the state of modern Britain. These left-behind voters have been encouraged by the anti-EU voices that dominate Britain’s media to view EU membership, and particularly the free movement of workers within the EU, as the cause of their discontent.

In negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure, Theresa May’s government is struggling to reconcile the objectives of these groups with the interests of remain voters and the economic reality that leaving the EU will hurt the UK economy. In 2015 the EU accounted for 44 percent of the UK’s exports and 53 percent of its imports and total UK-EU trade was 3.2 times larger than the UK’s trade with the U.S., its second largest trade partner. Economists estimate that increased trade barriers following Brexit will reduce income per capita in the UK by between 1 percent and 10 percent depending on what form Brexit takes.