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After the referendum : is there an alternative to Brexit?



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NEWS  29 March 2017   Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, starting the long process of taking the UK out of the European Union. In her speech to Parliament, May firmly announced that there is now no turning back. But is she right?
  The EU has stated that the Brexit process can be stopped if Britain wants to stop it. May has blandly asserted that the UK will get a good deal, and for the time being there are still a lot of people in the UK who believe this. But the number of people who are not confident that this "good deal" will be better than membership of the EU is rising.  
   Once serious talks get under way, and the inevitable compromises begin to separate the reality of Brexit from the dream, public dissatisfaction is likely to grow. If, among the supporters of Brexit, dissatisfaction turns to disillusion, pressure to call off the whole Brexit process will grow – not just among the public in Britain, but also in Parliament.
   Given the ideological determination of the current British government, it unlikely that this will happen; but it is important – and particularly important for people in Britain – to understand that until Britain actually leaves the EU, turning back remains an option. Britain has not left the EU yet.

     The British - or at least 52% of  us -  have voted for Brexit.  48% of Britons voted to remain in the EU. 


EU citizenship for Britons post-Brexit?

European parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has suggested that the European Union could offer British citizens the right to remain citizens of the EU... by contributing individually.  This is an idea that  should be followed up.

The anti-Brexit voices are becoming louder

For the first four months after the referendum, it was as if anti-Brexit voices in the UK had lost the willingness to fight. Since the autumn of 2016, the anti-Brexit movement has been gathering momentum. Success in a parliamentary by-election, where a young Liberal Democrat  candidate won the seat from the Conservatives, against all the odds, and success in the Supreme court have served to revive the anti-Brexit movement within Britain.  In Scotland, the nationalist government has called for a second referendum on Scottish independence.. which Theresa May has refused. Scotland voted clearly to remain in the EU.
   Throughout the UK, the "resistance" is organising .  A bi-monthly newspaper, the New European, which was originally planned to run for just four issues in 2016, has become permanent. And anti-Brexit groups and associations, such as the European Movement,  are growing in number and membership.  
   Since the start of 2017, former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair have both spoken up against the folly of Brexit; and in the House of Lords, former Conservative Party deputy leader Michael Heseltine voted against the Government's plans for Brexit, in the Lords' brief attempt to hold up the process.
   All this has happened before the consequences of a poor Brexit deal, or no deal at all, have begun to have any impact.

Brexit : the economic impact has not yet started

   Up to now, the result of the Referendum vote has not had much of a negative impact on the UK economy. Indeed, apart from the fact that British holidaymakers have seen a sharp rise in the cost of travelling abroad due to the fall in the value of Sterling, there have not yet been many negative consequences. Inflation has risen to over 2%... but is still low, and unemployment has continued to fall, confirming the belief held by many ordinary people, that Brexit is "liberating" the UK economy.
   Obviously this is not at all what is taking place, as for the time being, Brexit has not happened and the UK is still an integral member of the EU. What has happened is that the value of the British currency has fallen, making British exports more competitive on the world market. At the same time, Europe is recovering from the economic crises of the early 2010s, meaning that businesses almost throughout Europe are benefiting from more sales and more exports.  As for UK imports, they have become more expensive, but firms and shops have cushioned the impact of this, by absorbing some of the increases from their profit-margins.
   This scenario is not sustainable. Importers and distributors cannot continue indefinitely to absorb a good part of the rising costs of imports, and UK inflation is certain to grow. If Brexit negotiations go badly and Sterling loses another 10% or more, UK inflation will start to rise more sharply; analysts are currently predicting that it will reach between 3% and 4% by the end of 2017 even without another fall in the value of Sterling. By the end of 2017, firms are likely to begin laying off staff, and with unemployment and retail prices both rising, the impacts of Brexit will begin to be felt, specially by  poorer people.
   If there is no good Brexit deal, notably on the matter of a free trade agreement with the EU, the UK economy could be in for a very rough ride. If this happens, anti-Brexit sentiment will grow into an irresistable force.
   Opponents of Brexit can at least take some small cheer from the knowledge that Brexit, even if it happens, is not irreversible. Europe wants the UK, and half the population of the UK want to be in Europe.



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 © Andrew Rossiter and About-Britain.com 2016 





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