Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brexit outcomes: a stronger EU, a diminished UK? revisited

Back on 30 April 2017 I briefly reviewed Brexit in Brexit outcomes: a stronger EU, a diminished UK? A number of things have happened since then.

We had British Prime Minister May do a Turnbull and go to the people to take advantage of an apparently strong electoral position only to suffer a similar fate.Well, worse actually since her Government now appears to depend upon support from the Democratic Unionist Party.  

Meantime on the continent, the anti-EU forces that seemed to be gathering strength have weakened with the win of Macron in France and the apparent growth in support for Angela Merkel in Germany. There is clear acceptance that change is required within the EU, although there does not appear to be agreement on the form of change. Even the EU economy is picking up and is now out-performing the UK. Importantly, growth appears to be reasonably broadly based, with unemployment falling in Spain and Greece for example. Improved growth has strengthened popular support for the EU within Europe.

The opening negotiations on Brexit have now been held, with the EU sticking to its original negotiating line. The British Government had wanted parallel negotiations on issues including trade, while the EU wanted sequential negotiations based on the initial priority areas it had set out. The initial negotiations suggested that in practice the UK will have little choice but to follow the EU agenda, although I suspect that there is some scope for flexibility. Meanwhile, the Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament demonstrated the size of the legislative task associated with Brexit with eight foreshadowed bills.
“This country is fucked,” one senior Tory said. “We are tethered to the mast of Brexit and when it goes wrong we’re screwed. They all know it. All Labour have to do is hedge their bets. When the public realize they have been sold a pup they will turn on the party.”
This quote comes from a piece in Politico by Tom McTague,  Battered and bruised, Theresa May limps into enemy territory. I'm not sure I agree with it, but there is no doubt that prime Minister may faces a formidable task in both political and policy terms. I think things will be worked through, at least so far as Brexit is concerned. My feeling remains that the most likely outcome is somewhere between a hard and soft Brexit with a strengthened EU and a somewhat diminished UK..   .

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