Brexit: Its Ups and Downs – By Qasim Swati


Brexit: Its Ups and Downs:

Written By: Qasim Swati (Manchester, UK)

Ranging from those who oppose some EU-policies and institutions and seek reform, to those who entirely, do not like the membership of the EU and deem the European Union as an unreformable entity, the concept of Euro-scepticism means the criticism of the European Union and European integration. It is the same Euro-scepticism or EU-scepticism that has played a significant role in the birth of an internationally renowned issue, known as Brexit, which has been dominating and influencing the global, European and UK politics for the last several years.

Brexit is a term, used for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. It is an abbreviation for “British exit”, and it refers to the decision, made by the majority of the people of the UK in a referendum held on June 23, 2016 for leaving the European Union or remaining in the European Union (EU). Brexit also means the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union and its decision to cease its more than of four-decade membership of the Union.

The Remain Campaign (or Remainers) lost the June 2016 referendum with receiving only 48.10% or 16.1 million votes, while the Leave Campaign (or Leavers) won the referendum with 17.4 million votes or 51.9% of the ballot.

Before leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019, both the EU and the UK need to discuss certain matters and issues, such as the future trade deals between the UK and the EU, the rights of the EU citizens, living in the UK and vice versa, and the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as the Republic of Ireland is going to remain in the EU and Northern Ireland will be left outside the EU after Brexit in the UK.

The Various Possible Types or Prospects of Brexit:

Because of the problematic, controversial, complicated and thorny nature of the issue, different politicians, writers and people have tried to resolve the process of Brexit in different ways. Thus, Brexit has been named differently on different occasions by different people with their own unique different suggestions, proposals and recommendations for dealing with the matter. Some of the different types and possibilities, suggested by people for coping with the Brexit issue, have been outlined in The Independent on Thursday, July 26, 2018, as follows:

Soft Brexit: A Soft Brexit is the type of Brexit in which the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union is as close as possible to what it was before Brexit. Although Soft Brexit would keep Britain out of the EU, in which case the UK would be no longer a member of the European Union, yet the UK would allow free movement of people, make budgetary contributions and retain strong economic ties and links with the EU. Based on the nature of Soft Brexit, it would mean for the UK to stay within the single market of the EU, like Norway and within its customs union, as Turkey, in which case, exports would not be subject to border checks. On the other hand, the UK will have to leave both the customs union and the single market of the EU in the existence of the Hard Brexit. Soft Brexit is what many Remainers prefer to happen, while handling the Brexit process.

Hard Brexit: A Hard Brexit is one in which the United Kingdom gets full control of its own immigration and law-making affairs and stops being a member of the European single market. In other words, a Hard Brexit means the UK leaving the European Union without a new trade agreement in place, at all. If the UK wants to have access to the EU single market, it will have to meet the requirement set out by the EU single market of ‘four freedoms’, such as freedom of free movement of people, goods, capital and services. In that case, the UK will need to let anyone from the EU live and settle in the UK, which is not a preferred choice for those who voted in favour of Brexit and decided to leave the European Union.

Grey/Gray Brexit: A deal preferred and approved by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the former Brexit Secretary, David Davis, is meant to put limitations on immigration, besides the one for skilled migrants in certain jobs and vacancies, and leave the single market with Canada-Style bespoke (specially made for a particular person, organization or purpose) approach or access to parts of the free trade zone. This is a deal in the middle of the black demands of the Leave Campaign’s hard-liners and the white demands of the Remain Campaign’s staunch supporters, as published in a report by the Sunday Times, on December 4, 2016.The relevant report goes on reading, as ‘Theresa May has given ministers the green light to draw up secret plans for a “grey Brext” that will steer Britain away from the black-and-white demands of “Leave” and “Remain” hard-liners.’

Black Brexit: A Black Brexit is a suddenly damaging or a cliff edge situation or scenario for financial services and businesses, as resulted from meeting the demands of the Leave hard-liners or stalwart supporters of handling the Brexit process strictly, uncompromisingly and  without making any concessions for the EU or ending up with the ‘No Deal Scenario’ , while dealing with the Brexit process.

White Brexit: This is a scenario of handling the Brexit process where there is a possibility of an attempt, made by the UK, for remaining in the single market.

The Red, White and Blue Brexit, as Planned by the Prime Minister: Such a plan, hatched by the Prime Minister, means to end free movement of people, keep Britain away and free from the rule and influence of European Court of Justice, leave the customs union and the single market, stop main payments to the budget of the EU, get an independent trade policy for the UK in order to make it possible for the UK to make its own individual trade deals with other states of the world without being questioned and controlled by the EU.

Similarly, the Red, White and Blue Brexit of Theresa May also means to keep the United Kingdom in line with the single market regulations for some goods and create an intricate and complex novel arrangement of customs at the borders between the UK and the EU.

As published on Tuesday, December 6, 2016, in The Guardian, ‘The Prime Minister, Theresa May, while on her two-day visit to the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in Bahrain, clearly said that she was interested in and keen on all such terms or names that had been spotted, whether Hard Brexit or Soft Brexit, Black or White, or Grey Brexit. She added that what they should have done to do was to look for a red, white and blue Brexit by reaffirming her view-point and told the people that it was the right deal for the UK, and what was going to be the correct choice and option of the UK relationship with the EU after the Brexit took place. That was what she and her government were about and that was what they would be working on.’

However, such an approach or suggestion by the Prime Minister was dismissed and branded as being too bureaucratic and unworkable or impractical by the EU.

Canada-Style Brexit Deal: As of September 5, 2018, in The Week, the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, while, entirely, disagreeing with the PM over her Chequers Plan for Brexit, advised Theresa May to ditch or chuck her Chequers Plan and work on the Canada-Style Deal instead, he said the EU has recently agreed on with Canada and was signed in 2016. Officially called as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the deal abolishes customs duties on a huge amount of Canadian exports to the EU and customs duties on EU exports to Canada, without being dependent on the single market.

While responding to the ‘red lines’ of the Prime Minister, the EU said that the only option for the UK would be to have a trade agreement with the EU, as South Korea or Canada did have with it. Notwithstanding the approval of several Brexiteers, like Boris Johnson, such a deal, as a Canada-Style agreement, has been dismissed or ruled out by the Prime Minister in the past.

Norway Plus: This is a trade deal between Norway and the EU, with the help of which Norway has access to the EU single market via the European Economic Area (EEA), but Norway has customs checks on the goods traded with the EU, because of its being not inside the customs union. However, the UK will have to stop border checks by adding a customs union to the plan. Such a deal is, commonly, approved and advocated by those who are in favour of a Soft Brexit.

Ukraine-Style Brexit: Being subject to some of the laws of the European Court of Justice, Ukraine has an “association agreement” with the EU without holding membership of the customs union or the single market. Despite having interruption to its trade with the EU and checks on goods, this type of Brexit deal may be better for the UK than the one it is heading towards. However, having weaker relationship with the EU (after Brexit), when compared with what Ukraine does have with the European Union in regards to its deal, the UK government is convinced to be glad with having such a deal into an association agreement.

The Norway Option: Another alternative for the UK to deal with the process of leaving the European Union is a little bit harder Brexit than ‘Norway Plus’ and known as ‘The Norway Option’, in which case, the UK would be able to remain within the single market by becoming a member of the European Economic Area. But, as Norway is not within a customs union, so, it is subject to having customs checks on the goods traded with the European Union by it. Nevertheless, the EU has not agreed to the suggestions of a group of those who voted for leaving the EU (or the Brexiteers) for renegotiating or discussing once more the EEA agreement for stopping border checks and covering customs.

The Swiss Option: Having established a form of free movement with the European Union, Switzerland has become a part of the Schengen Passport-free area. The Swiss government could not find it easy recently to cease free movement with the EU, because this could damage and end the whole economic ties of Switzerland with the EU, despite the Swiss people voted for such a plan. The UK will have to succumb to the demand of free movement asked for by the EU, if it desires to participate in and have access to the single market, as free movement is one of the ‘Four Liberties or Four Freedoms’ that cannot be taken away and isolated from the rest of the remaining three other freedoms, on which the existence of the European Union depends.

No Deal Brexit: It is often repeated in the government circles that ‘No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal’, on one hand, and the government desires its intention of heading towards such a ‘no deal scenario’ on the other hand. According to the critics of a ‘no deal situation’, the UK will have to face with serious consequences. Such negative outcomes and results may include problems, like setbacks and difficulties faced by businesses, driving up food prices, giving birth to huge chaos and turmoil at the borders, if the UK leaves the EU without reaching a proper formal agreement with the European Union.

Besides immediate border checks with the EU, some other negative results of the ‘No Deal Brexit’ will also include such hardships for the UK, as tariffs on goods, a colossal disruption to businesses, as already mentioned, the British citizens residing in the EU will not be technically able to maintain their legal status in the EU. Apart from it, there will be concerns, too, about the lapsing or expiring of agreements in such areas of business relations and activities, as nuclear materials, medicine, aviation and so on.

Notwithstanding all the afore-said negative forecasts and predictions, as a result of the ‘no deal scenario’, most of the Brexiteers deem a ‘no deal situation’ or ‘no deal approach’ as a windfall and an opportunity for the UK government to go ahead with such circumstances and get rid of the dominance, unfairness, monopoly and centralized and controlled policies of Brussels, implemented in the UK, and played by Germany, France and Belgium.

Turkey-Style Agreement: Being in a customs union with the EU, there are no tariffs on goods between the EU and Turkey, but there are still border checks on goods between the two sides, as Turkey is neither a member of the single market nor it does have any free movement arrangement with the EU. Due to the sort of its customs union with the bloc, Turkey is not allowed to sign its own trade deals nor is it in the position to fully benefit from the trade deal it has with the EU.

As published in the Financial Times on June 23, 2017, entitled ‘Hard or Soft Brexit? The Six Scenarios for Britain’, Brexit has been discussed from six different perspectives while reaching an agreement or deal with the EU. The six various scenarios include such situations, approaches or options, as the single market, customs union, far-ranging trade deal, limited tariff-free deal, divorce-only agreement and no deal.

The Labour Party Policy and Brexit: Labour is in favour of a customs union with the European Union for enabling the UK to benefit from the free trade agreement that the EU has with other countries of the world. The Party is looking for a smooth trade, with no border checks, as being a single market member. While delivering his Party Conference speech during the Labour Party Conference, 2018, at Liverpool, the Opposition Leader, Jeremy Coybyn, made it clear at the Prime Minister that he was ready to support the Conservative government over Brexit, if Theresa May could come back with a Brexit deal from Brussels, based on the terms and conditions, set out by the Labour Party (the six tests formula of the Party for handling the Brexit process). However, the Labour Party also does not rule out the possibility of a ‘Second Referendum’ on the matter as an alternative option for resolving the issue, faced by the country in the form of Brexit. So, a Second Referendum is another option available on the negotiating table for the Labour Party besides the rest of the other remedies for fixing the dilemma of Brexit.

The Arguments in Favour and Against Brexit: Some of the ups and downs, pros and cons, ins and outs, merits and demerits, advantages and disadvantages , the good aspects and bad aspects of Brexit are, briefly, discussed hereafter.

The Arguments Against the Membership of the European Union: So many people are in favour of Brexit and hope that UK will be better off in the period coming after Brexit. Before the Brexit Referendum of June 23, 2016, leaflets, regarding the reason behind the forthcoming referendum, were distributed among the people, across the country, in order to convince them for voting in favour of the Leave Campaign. Entitled as ‘The UK and the European Union: THE FACTS’, the leaflet contained information about the background of European Union, the contribution made by the UK to the EU and the reasons for deciding to leave the European Union.

There is a huge list of the arguments in favour of Brexit, however, some of such arguments are mentioned, as follows:

 The Expansion of the European Union: The Leave Campaign argued that there were just 9 member states of the EU when the UK joined it, but that number reached 28 and five more countries, like Albania, Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, were also being considered for the membership of the Union. Such an increase was no good for the future of the UK.

The EU Being Too Costly: The Leavers argued that the UK would make a net contribution to the EU budget of £10.4 billion in 2015, as the EU costs the UK £350 million a week, but just less than half of this money is given back to the UK.

No Need for Being Its Member to Trade With the EU: As stated by the Brexiteers, you do not need to be a member of the European Union to trade with it. For instance, Switzerland exports more per person to the EU than the UK, in spite of not even being a member of the EU.

The UK Law Being Overruled By the EU Law: The EU law does not allow the UK law to function smoothly, freely and autonomously, as British laws are being reversed, rejected and disallowed by the EU judges in such matters, as immigration, VAT, prison voting, counter-terrorism powers and so on.

A Massive Influx of Migrants from the EU: Before and during the Brexit Referendum, it was highlighted by the Leave Campaign that more than 50% of the net migration to the UK used to come from the EU countries, because more than a quarter of a million or over 250,000 people came to the UK from the EU in 2015, for example.

Inability of the UK to Make Trade Deals on Her Own: Being a member of the EU, UK is not able to make its own trade deals with key allies, like the USA, New Zealand and Australia, or significant growing economies, such as Brazil, China or India.

The EU Being Undemocratic: Not based on the principles of democracy, the European Union possesses so many powers and is not as much accountable to the people as to the national governments. Run by an appointed bureaucracy and led by unelected Commissioners, the EU Commission is still responsible and empowered for making and shaping most of the EU decisions.

The EU Being Too Strong: Set up as an economic organization, initially, the EU has started to cover so many areas of activities that should and would be better for the member states to make their own decisions about. This is not possible for the European Union to succeed in making its diverse cultures, demographics and economies function properly, while struggling to impose one-size-fits-all structures on all its 28 different member countries.

Supra-nationalism and the EU: Most of the EU policies are based on the principle of supra-nationalism (referring to a large amount of power given to an authority that, in theory, is placed higher than the state). As a result, member states are obliged to hand over their sovereignty to the EU in so many areas which should only be dealt with by the individual member states on their own instead. 

A Windfall or Bonanza for the UK Economy: As published in a report at https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/jacob/rees/mogg/hard/brexit/dividend/ on Sunday, September 9, 2018, a leading Conservative Euro-sceptic and leader of the pro-Brexit Research Group of MPs, Mr. Jacob Rees-Mogg, claimed that Britain would get an £80bn boost, if it left the European Union without a deal with Brussels and moved on to World Trade Organisation rules.

Hope for the Best: Most of the Leavers and famous pro-Brexit UK politicians, like Dominic Cummings (Campaign Director of Vote Leave), Boris Johnson (Former Foreign Secretary), David Davis (ex-Brexit Secretary), Michael Gove (Environmental Secretary), Dominic Raab, Matthew Elliott (the Chief Executive of Vote Leave), Daniel Hannan (the most outspoken pro-Brexit MEP in the Conservative ranks), Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage (the former UKIP leader) and even the Prime Minister, Theresa May, are confident and hopeful of having a bright future for the UK after Brexit.

The Arguments Against Brexit and in Favour of Staying in the EU: Against the results of the June, 2016 Brexit Referendum, in which 51.9% voted for leaving the EU and 48.10% decided to stay in the European Union, there are more arguments in favour of staying within the EU than reasons for exit from the Union. There are so many arguments against Brexit and in favour of remaining in the EU, but some of such benefits, merits and advantages are given in the lines below, most of which are based on the points, published, as a report in the METRO on Wednesday, 22 June, 2016.

The UK Security and the EU Membership: Being as family members in the form of staying in the European Union, all the member states are more expected to defend each other against both internal and external dangers and risks. It is in the mutual interests of all the countries, included in the EU, to combat any form of aggression against any member state, whether this be a defence problem inside the EU member states or this is a foreign or an external threat or attack from a foreign country or power.

Holidays and the UK’s inclusion in the European Union: Staying within the EU is also beneficial for those who want to go to any EU member country and enjoy their holidays. The holidaymakers from the UK benefit from membership of the UK in the EU in various ways, including cheap air fares, lower credit card fees, lower mobile phone roaming charges, or appropriate flight cancellation or delays’ compensation.

Equal Legal Rights for Both Men and Women: Due to EU legislation, the people of the UK can enjoy the equal rights for men and women in pay, minimum 20 days paid leave, enough maternity leave for pregnant or expectant mothers, protection against any sort of discrimination on the grounds of race, age, sexual orientation, protection for part-time workers and guarantee of having paid time off of workers to care for a child who is ill.

Safety Measures in the Workplace and other Public Premises: Thanks to European Safety Directives, workplace fatalities have decreased, at a large scale, in the UK, since the introduction of this EU law in 1996.

The UK Economy and Brexit: Although the Leave Campaign or the pro-Brexit group, at present, after the 2016 Brexit Referendum, accuses the Remain Campaign or the Remainers of scaremongering about unpleasant and dreadful economic consequences after Brexit, but the reality is that the economic setback for the UK is a fact and not a scaremongering tactic used by those who want to stay in the EU.

To Live, Work and Study: This is a golden opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people of the UK to go to any EU member state, live, work and study there. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is the second largest beneficiary of the EU research funding, as this has been noticed and realised in the UK universities.

Business and Trade: To stay in the EU means the right of the UK to trade in a market of around 500 million people within 28 countries of Europe. It is estimated that about 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU at the moment. If we leave the EU, one in three international businesses will create fever UK jobs, as a result. It is expected by 70% of main businesses in the UK to experience a negative and damaging impact, if the people of the UK leave the European Union. Similarly, 61 per cent exports of the small UK businesses go to the EU. Because of the benefits they receive from having membership of the European Union, almost 89% of the businesses in the UK back and support staying in the EU. Most of the big bosses and renowned personalities of the UK industries believe they are stronger while staying in the EU.

Jobs and the EU: According to South Bank University, approximately, 2.5 million people in the UK have got jobs, resulting directly from the trade we do with the EU, and, almost, the jobs of some one more million people are indirectly related to the UK trade with the Union. Thus, this is predicted that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK may lose jobs, if we leave the EU membership.

Household Expenses and Inflation: Leaving the EU can trigger inflation by a considerable increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money. Brexit can negatively affect the family finances and regular budget of the British people in so many ways.

Poverty versus Affluence: As a result of adverse family budget due to leaving the EU, the economic conditions of the UK citizens and residents can deteriorate, as the people may have less opportunities of jobs, on one hand, and the prices of food, fuel and other usual commodities can go up, on other hand. This can convert the prosperity of the UK people into penury (the state of being very poor), impoverishment and privation (a state in which food and other essentials for well-being are lacking).

Economists and Brexit: It is claimed that the majority of economists believe that the UK economy will be worse off, if the country leaves the European Union. One example of warnings by leading and reputed economists is the warning given by the Governor of Bank of England, Mark Carney, that ‘No-deal Brexit could be as bad as 2008 financial crash’, as published in The Guardian on Thursday, 13 September, 2018.

EU Membership and Boost in the UK Salaries: It is believed by those who want to stay in the EU that UK salaries have increased by £1,800 due to membership of the European Union. (Source: Frontier Economics for London First)

The World Leaders and Brexit: Leaving the European Union can weaken the position or place of the UK in the world affairs. With the exception of few international leaders, like Donald Trump (the US Presidential Candidate at the time of 2016 Brexit Referendum and now the President of the USA) and Marline Le Pen/Marion Anne Perrine (a French politician and the President of the National Rally Political Party), who thought that UK would be stronger out of the EU, the rest of the world leaders believed and still believe that UK would be stronger by keeping its membership of the European Union. The global leaders who are in favour of the UK being inside the EU include such politicians, as Hillary Clinton (the ex-US Presidential Candidate), Narendra Modi (the Indian Prime Minister), Barak Obama (the Former US President), Angela Merkel (the German Chancellor), John Key ( the Former Prime Minister of New Zealand), Shinzo Abe (the Japanese Prime Minister), Justin Trudeau (the Prime Minister of Canada), Xi Jinping (the Chinese President), Malcolm Turnbull (Former Prime Minister of Australia), Matteo Renzi (Former Prime Minister of Italy), Bill Clinton (Former US President), Michelle Bachelet (Former President of Chile) and Nicolas Sarkozy (Former French President).

The Rank/Position of the UK Passport and Brexit: As reported by Oliver Smith in The Telegraph on 22 May, 2018, the UK Passport has its fourth position or rank among the most powerful passports of the world, according to the ranking by Henley & Partners (a citizenship and planning firm, who takes into account how many countries can be visited without applying for a visa). With a score of 177 on the world passports ranking list, the UK Passport holders can visit 186 out of a possible 218 countries of the world, being still more powerful than the passports of certain other countries, such as, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, United States, Belgium, Australia Greece, New Zealand and more. (www.telegraph.co.uk).

 However, the impact of Brexit on the UK Passport’s ranking is still to be seen, as this will depend on the nature of the deal between the UK government and the European Union, but this seems likely for Britons to be affected in some way while travelling abroad, as a result of Brexit.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at: https://qasimswati.com or qasimswati2003@yahoo.co.uk.

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