Brexit: where next?

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Matt Ross
Editorial Director of Global Government Fórum

Three prominent Brexit campaigners have been handed the task of negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, international trade secretary Liam Fox and Brexit secretary David Davis were handed key posts when new Prime Minister Theresa May appointed her cabinet.

May herself backed the Remain side and the team of senior ministers is further balanced by the appointment of fellow Remainer Philip Hammond to the post of chancellor.

May has said she’ll trigger the exit process by the end of March 2017, starting the clock on a two-year period of negotiations.

Talks are likely to focus on dividing the EU’s budgets and assets; deciding the rights of UK and EU citizens to live and work abroad; reshaping the arrangements on EU briefs such as fisheries; and agreeing an interim trade deal to keep goods flowing until a full treaty can be signed.

Implications for EU governments

There will be no rush to follow Britain out of the door — but Iain Rennie, New Zealand’s former state services commissioner, notes that “in the longer term, some EU countries will look at how the UK fares outside the EU, and that may influence the debate about the EU’s future form or about other countries leaving.”

Britain’s absence will allow other voices to come to the fore. The UK has always pushed for the EU to develop as a loose, free trade-based union rather than a centralized political power — so its departure may permit renewed progress toward integration.

Professor John Louth, Director for Defence, Industries and Society at UK security think tank RUSI, says security professionals on both sides of the English Channel will keep on working together.

Nonetheless, he does worry that souring political relationships could weaken security cooperation. “Long term, those practitioner relationships are dependent on political will,” he says. “If the political discourse becomes torturous, it will impact on what people feel permitted to do.”

Amid the risks and threats, EU nations may see opportunities in the UK’s departure. For Britain has long sucked in European skills and global investment — and if it introduces immigration controls, loses access to EU structural funds and leaves the Single Market, both people and capital may head for the Continent instead.

Implications for non-EU governments

At September’s G20 meeting in China, the Japanese Government warned that its banks and manufacturers may leave the UK if May fails to secure tariff-free trade and easy movement of labor between the UK and the EU.

The new challenge for countries like New Zealand, says Rennie, is to “maintain a strong relationship with the UK, and also to build and extend our friendships with countries in the EU.”

Like EU members, however, non-EU countries may also find a silver lining in Brexit. During the referendum campaign, Brexiteers argued that big trading nations would be eager to sign low-tariff deals with the UK — and now they’re under pressure to prove they were right.


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This article is excerpted from the November 2016 edition of Citizen Today. See also these featured articles: