The complicated realities of leaving the European Union are becoming more obvious as the deadline for withdrawal in March 2019 draws ever nearer. It is widely agreed that a transition period to the final arrangements is necessary and desirable. But the terms of the transition need to be consistent with the final agreement, which itself is far from agreed. It is worth considering some of the longer-term considerations here.
Not just the UK
Before delving into the detail, it should be pointed out that the effects of Brexit will resonate beyond the UK. A major member of the European Union (EU) has chosen to leave one of the three biggest trade blocs in the world at a time when protectionism and nationalism are unusually high on international political agendas.
The UK’s separatism chimes with thinking in the current US administration, leading to the overtures that have been made about strengthening trade ties between the two countries. Should this manifest itself in closer arrangements then the UK will benefit directly, but it will be less good news for the remaining members of the EU.
Germany, for example, will be keen not to lose too much of its net £25 billion of exports to the UK, while Spain benefits from considerable net revenues thanks to services and tourism among other trades. (1)
Meanwhile, the underlying sentiment of nationalism could be nurtured if other EU members perceive there to be a benefit from leaving the Union. Whether the outcome is positive or negative, it will have international implications not least due to the effect on the value of investments held by overseas entities.
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