[English translation of an invited op-ed published in the Greek Daily “TA NEA” on 28/01/2023]
It has already been three years since the UK left the EU and two years since the end of the Brexit transition period. The pandemic, the Russian invasion and the energy crisis have, to some extent, overshadowed the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
However, a first assessment can now be made regarding the three main pillars of the Brexit narrative: “Global Britain”, immigration, return to legislative Parliamentary Sovereignty.
Britain has indeed entered into trade agreements with other countries, but most of these agreements constitute essentially continuation of existing EU agreements with the these countries. The genuinely new trade agreements are mainly those with Australia and New Zealand. At present the benefits to the British economy are meagre considering the cost of leaving the single market.
Moreover, these agreements have been subject to scathing criticism even by former government ministers such as George Eustice. The former minister has criticised, albeit late, the negotiating strategy of the former Trade Secretary and subsequent Prime Minister, Liz Truss, who asked her Australian counterparts to prepare a list of terms that would assist the speedy conclusion of the UK-Australia trade agreement before the G7 summit in June 2021. As expected, the Australian negotiators seized the opportunity by presenting a “Christmas list” which eventually formed the backbone of the final agreement.
Furthermore, the impact of Brexit on export-oriented UK SMEs is negative. Before the withdrawal, the single market was the natural hinterland on which they based their further growth. From these companies, those who can, invest in their physical presence within the EU, sometimes following a nudge by UK authorities, instead of investing and growing their businesses in Britain. Those who cannot invest in the single market and cannot find alternative markets for their products and services quickly, decline or even cease to operate.
“The regulatory complexity that has resulted from more than forty years of coexistence of the British and EU constitutional orders makes the process highly technical and time-consuming, with the result that Parliament’s role in the process is often reduced to that of an observer.”
Net migration to the UK continues to rise. The main difference since Brexit is that migration from the EU has decreased significantly while migration from other countries has increased a lot.
In addition, the UK faces greater problems in dealing with asylum seekers as it is now outside the scope of the Dublin III Regulation and cannot benefit from the mechanisms of that framework -namely the ability to return asylum seekers to the country of first entry.
“Recent opinion polls (2023) show that 58% of respondents think Brexit is not going well for Britain. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we are on the verge of a Brexit reversal.”
Leaving the EU has enabled Britain to decide which of the existing rules passed at the EU level to keep and which to abolish. Parliament was supposed to play the leading role in this process according to the Brexit narrative.
However, reality once again is quite different. The regulatory complexity that has resulted from more than forty years of coexistence of the British and EU constitutional orders makes the process highly technical and time-consuming, with the result that Parliament’s role in the process is often reduced to that of an observer.
The next steps
Recent opinion polls (2023) show that 58% of respondents think Brexit is not going well for Britain.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that we are on the verge of a Brexit reversal. The EU seems unwilling to reopen a chapter that it has managed to close with great difficulty. Labour also doesn’t want to reopen a debate around Brexit which might cost them electorally in the English North.
At this juncture the best outcome in the Brexit saga, for all the parties involved, is to move forward with “technical” -as opposed to “high political”- discussions to improve the functioning of the existing framework, starting with the thorny issue of the Protocol for Ireland/N. Ireland.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that at present the only tangible positive impact of Brexit for Britain is the enrichment of the English vocabulary with a new word and its derivatives.
#Brexit #UKEU #trade #immigration #ParliamentarySovereignty