Brexit. A word which strikes fear into the hearts of many and inspires hope in the few. The word is used to reference the UK’s departure from the EU, but many are simply fed up of hearing it. The Leave campaign won the referendum, held on the 23rd of June 2016, securing 51.9% of the vote. Yet the path to Brexit has never quite ran smoothly. This high-stakes political game has shone a light on the cracks in British society and the potential issues raised when direct and representative democracy are used together.
Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement, concluding two years' worth of negotiations, has recently been rejected by the House of Commons. Yet whilst this occurs and the clock continues to run down, the call for and the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit are rising. Within this article, I aim to outline how and why, a no-deal Brexit would be, as the UK’s own Business Minister described it, an absolute disaster.
So, what is a no-deal? No-deal means that the UK and EU would be unable to reach an agreed withdrawal agreement and as such, the UK would leave the political and economic institution without a deal. This is bound to affect all manners of life, including trade, movement of people, laws and money, without mentioning the highly controversial issue regarding the Irish Border. A no-deal Brexit would mean that the UK’s trade with the EU would automatically fall under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and, over night, the UK would lose all benefits associated with being part of the EU. But, why is this so bad?
The problem is that the UK has built its infrastructure around its membership of the EU since 1973 and as such, the deep level of integration between the two, cannot be simply torn away in a matter of seconds. The five major issues with a no-deal Brexit are as follows:
- Brits abroad: around 1.3 million people who were born in the UK live in EU countries. Currently, many of these are protected by freedom of movement- one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union. Yet, a no deal Brexit would see these freedoms revoked overnight and leave UK citizens on the continent in a limbo position, not understanding what their legal duties or rights are. From those who have built their life in another country, to those taking part on a study abroad Erasmus programme, a no-deal Brexit creates grave uncertainty.
- Trade: the UK currently benefits from free trade in the EU, transporting its goods and services, tariff free, across the 27 other European countries. The UK is also part of 40 other trade agreements, which the Union has with around 70 different countries. Yet on the 29th of March, those deals will be lost with immediate effect if we leave on a no-deal. Overnight, we will fall under WTO rules, implying tariffs, causing our products to become more expensive and less desirable to export and costing more to import other countries goods.
- Economy: what do Sony, Dyson, Panasonic and J.P. Morgan have in common? They have all moved their staff of European HQs out of London. The British Chambers of Commerce have recently stated that they believe that this is only "the tip of the iceberg", with many of its 75,000 members indicating that they may leave in the case of a disorderly exit. Yet, we are still pursuing with this political mess, even when the facts are staring us clear in the face. The British government has openly warned that the impact on GDP after 15 years, will be 9.3% smaller in the case of a no-deal, compared to that if we had no-Brexit. Yet the government continues to pursue a toxic agenda, which makes no-deal possible although it would affect the country so drastically.
- Laws: the laws which the EU make aren’t all trivial. They also don’t create most of our laws, as the Leave campaign would lead you to believe. Instead, the EU provides useful laws, such as the Working Time directive, ensuring that workers get adequate breaks and time off. Vital laws, which protect our fundamental rights, freedoms, health and our pocket, will be lost on the 29th of March if no-deal is the outcome.
- The fabric of the United Kingdom: it may seem drastic, but Brexit has put this long-lasting union into grave danger. The most talked about aspect of this, is that of Ireland, with the border issue reinvigorating tensions of the past. Yet, Scotland is often forgotten about. Scotland voted to remain within the EU, at a higher percentage, than they voted to remain part of the UK in 2014. Ignoring the views of Scottish people may only create further resentment and increase the calls for a second independence referendum within Scotland.
As such, we need to stop using no-deal as some sort of political bargaining chip. The EU is not scared, and they have shown that. They don’t want it, but they are not going to budge or beg for us to stay, as we wave the threat of no-deal in their face. The UK’s own Brexit department has suggested that Britain would run out of food and medicines within a fortnight. UK citizens would find themselves at the mercy of individual states, annual growth would be down, whilst the Irish hard border would reinvigorate national tensions between unionists and nationalists.
We need to stop pretending that no-deal is a viable option and start working on a cross-party solution to get Brexit sorted. This needs to be about national interest, not party interest. At best, a no-deal presents major disruption, whilst at worst, it spells disaster for the UK.