By Steven McGinty
Although Brexit negotiations are officially underway, there is no clear vision of how the UK will look once it’s left the European Union. Politicians – including those within government – appear to be divided on the issue, with Chancellor Philip Hammond’s wish for a softer Brexit seemingly at odds with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
This uncertainty has left businesses, local authorities, and the general public struggling to plan for the future, and in search of answers to help navigate these difficult Brexit waters.
One valuable resource they may turn to is Professor Janice Morphet’s new book, Beyond Brexit? How to assess the UK’s future.
In this short guide, Professor Morphet – an expert in infrastructure, the EU and public policy – takes a long term view and attempts to understand the whole range of options that may be deployed by the UK, EU, and other international institutions.
Below we’ve outlined some of the main themes of the book.
Implications for devolved nations and territories
The impact of the EU referendum result has been strongly felt by the devolved nations and territories.
For example, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has argued that Scotland (where 62% voted to stay in the EU) should be recognised in the Brexit negotiations, and that Scotland should be allowed to come to an arrangement on continued EU membership.
Similarly, Gibraltar (where 96% voted in favour of remaining in the EU) is looking to retain access to the EU’s single market and free access across the EU border. There have also been diplomatic tensions, with the suggestion that there should be no UK/EU agreement – that includes Gibraltar – without the consent of Spain.
But beyond these specific issues, Professor Morphet raises the wider point that EU legislation is a fundamental component of specific devolved powers.
This is because much of the powers devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales are derived from legislation initially agreed within the EU. In Professor Morphet’s view, devolved nations will need clarification on how they’d retain decision-making powers, including whether a new set of powers would need to be introduced. One suggestion discussed is the need to create a federal constitution guaranteeing the devolution arrangements.
Benefits of the EU
During the referendum campaign there was limited discussion on the value of EU membership. Even the Remain campaign focused on the negative impact of leaving, rather than the positive impact of being a member of the EU.
Professor Morphet provides an authoritative look at some of these benefits, including the:
- importance of being inside the world’s largest market;
- ability to engage diplomatically as part of a global diplomatic group;
- development of an EU-wide energy policy, ensuring energy security; and
- commitment to achieving higher environmental stands across the EU.
Options for future UK/EU institutional relationships
Much of the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be dependent on the current Brexit negotiations. As such, it’s unclear whether the UK will achieve a bespoke arrangement with the EU, gain an agreement similar to another country (such as the Norway or the Swiss models) or if there will be any deal at all.
Professor Morphet discusses this wide variety of options, and considers some of the challenges for the UK Government – who at the moment appear undecided on how far outside the EU they would like to be.
Immediate actions that must be taken by the UK
Before the EU Referendum result many high profile individuals and institutions claimed the UK economy would collapse. This included former Chancellor George Osborne, who suggested there would need to be an emergency Brexit Budget, and the Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney, who warned that the UK risked heading into a recession.
However, even though the economic slowdown has not occurred, there have been signs that the referendum result has impacted the UK on a variety of levels. For instance, Professor Morphet highlights that there has been an effective 11-16% devaluation of the pound, and that inflation is likely to rise in 2017. For her, stabilising the economy should be the priority for the UK government, arguing that it needs to offer a clear view of Brexit to reduce the political uncertainty.
Professor Morphet’s latest book is a must read for anyone with an interest in how the country will look post Brexit. By her own admittance, the book does not provide all the answers, but it does provide a framework for making sure the right questions are asked during the negotiation period and beyond.
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