We are excited to continue our three-part series examining where the United Kingdom and European Union stand 60 days after the historic Brexit vote.
This second installment provides an overview of the current political and economic climate within the EU following Brexit, as well as the next steps Parliament will need to take as they begin their exit from the EU.
Politics in the UK
The most immediate consequence of Brexit on the UK political climate was an instant change in executive leadership. Prime Minister David Cameron, a vocal proponent of the Remain campaign, immediately announced his resignation, citing the need for new leadership to guide the UK through its exit from the EU. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Theresa May took leadership of the country and the Conservative Party. While initially considered to be in the Leave camp, May became a somewhat hesitant proponent of her party’s Remain position during the campaign. However, in remarks shortly after taking office, she confirmed that one of her top priorities as PM was to administer Britain’s exit from the EU. “Brexit means Brexit… No attempts made to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.”
Prime Minister May immediately created the new cabinet post of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and appointed former Conservative Party Chair and Minister of State, David Davis. May has already begun meetings with the heads of the EU, Germany, France, and Scotland to facilitate the exit from the EU. All indications are that she is moving forward in earnest with the UK’s exit from the EU.
Historically, May has spoken candidly against illegal immigration and in favor of reducing the current levels of legal immigration into the UK. She has similarly resisted the EU’s attempts to increase the levels of refugees to be accepted by the UK.
Politics in the EU… and the Road to Exit
On the continent, reaction to Brexit has been understandably mixed – with some EU members calling for an immediate separation and others calling for a calmer and more deliberate process. France has seemingly united a block of several member states calling for the UK to begin its exit “as soon as possible,” citing the need for economic certainty in Europe. However, when it comes to the timing of an exit, it is the UK’s decision when, and if, they will ultimately leave the EU.
What would a UK exit from the EU entail? Under the EU Constitution, if a member in good standing wishes to leave the Union, it must itself invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. While there are currently legal challenges pending in Britain’s High Court, there is general agreement that it will be by act of Parliament.
Invoking Article 50 will then begin a two-year transitional period for the UK’s exit where the EU and the UK will negotiate an “exit deal” covering diplomatic relations, trade terms, immigration processes, and other ongoing EU programs. However, since no nation has left the EU since the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the exact form and content of such an agreement is anyone’s guess.
In the event that no agreement, or only a partial agreement, is in place after the two-years, the EU Constitution gives the Union the option to extend the negotiations (but only with the unanimous consent of the membership) or to remove the UK without agreements in place. The UK would then negotiate any desired treaties and agreements directly with the individual member nations.
It is hard to speculate what positions the nations involved will take. While some EU nations may seek to deprive the UK of EU benefits such as free access to markets for trade and open travel for its citizens, others may offer relatively favorable terms for the UK to maintain economic and political alliances.
Will the UK’s decision to exit the EU trigger others to follow? Again, it is far too early to speculate, but polls have shown a similar voter sentiment developing in at least eight other nations. However, any predictions about other nations leaving the Union are premature, as no similar Brexit-like referendums are currently being considered.
To date, the greatest fears of a devastating economic impact on the UK have yet to fully materialize. So far, the only significant economic consequence has been the precipitous dive in the British Pound. Economists do warn though that this factor alone may prove the greatest impact on the UK and on the rest of the world. With its dramatic post-Brexit plunge, the Pound still remains near a 31-year low against the US Dollar. As the world’s fourth most-traded currency, the value of the Pound profoundly effects inflation and interest rates within the UK and currency values and trade balances around the world.
Even the shocking dive in the US and UK stock markets was short-lived, with the Dow Jones and the FTSE back now to levels higher than before the vote. Further, UK economic indicators for July show little evidence that Brexit even happened. It seems that so far the greatest immediate economic impact of Brexit is simply the uncertainty that Brexit has introduced into the business climate.
However, the UK economy post-Brexit will have significant impact on immigration. As a financial and corporate center in Europe, the UK - and London in particular - risk losing international investments should any limitations to trade, immigration, or talent mobility be implemented in a UK-EU exit deal. Rumors are already flying that several major international banks are developing plans to relocate out of London. However, it is yet to be seen what the UK-EU exit deal will look like and to what extent it will impact trade and immigration. The serious economic impact of Brexit - for both the UK and the world - is still years, away and hinges directly on the exit deal eventually negotiated between the EU and the UK.
Find out more next week as we look to the future of UK/EU immigration and the possible changes that lie ahead.
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