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

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.

In the absence of a majority in Parliament for any feasible deal with the EU that the government might strike, there is a growing fear that the UK might crash out without one. Three groups are playing a game of chicken: remainers who hope the prospect of no-deal chaos forces a second referendum, Labour MPs who hope this prompts a general election that their party wins, and hardline Conservative Brexiteers, who hope the UK will leave without the constraints of a deal.

My baseline scenario remains that the threat of no-deal chaos will ultimately lead the UK government to cave to all the EU’s demands and Parliament to approve the deal. But a no-deal Brexit, or none at all, cannot be ruled out.

J. Scott Marcus is a senior fellow at Bruegel and an independent consultant.

Nothing is firmly settled yet. There is still much to be negotiated and debated in Europe and the UK, but the most likely scenarios are either (1) an agreement based more or less on the UK White Paper, or (2) the UK crashes out in March 2019 with no agreement. Crashing out would cause serious problems and would be much worse than any likely agreement.

The UK will proportionally lose even more than the EU27 from exiting. Leave or remain is a judgment for the UK to make, but my view is that the UK would be far better off continuing as an EU Member State. Next best would be to become an EEA member like Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. It could still be done—there is no defined procedure for the UK to reverse its Article 50 notification, but if they made the request it would probably work out somehow.

In principle, the British public should have the final say on the deal on whether the UK should in fact withdraw, and if so, on the form that the withdrawal should take. There are increasingly insistent calls in the UK for a second referendum on the withdrawal, but it is difficult to see how the schedule to March 2019 could accommodate this. The UK has run out of time. In any case, a new vote would not necessarily lead to greater clarity and might not lead to a different outcome.

In any scenario, the UK’s GDP will decline somewhat. Detailed impacts depend on the form of withdrawal that is taken, and on the specifics of the deal, but some things are certain: London’s centrality in global finance will decline. The UK will face serious challenges in filling certain jobs, such as for healthcare professionals. There will be many years of legal and regulatory uncertainty.

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.