how Brexit played an “accelerator” role in the country’s difficulties

Two years after leaving the EU, Britain is sinking into crisis. On the economic level, all indicators are red. Inflation is around 11% and is causing a serious cost of living crisis in the country. Faced with this loss of purchasing power, strikes multiply, especially in the transport and health sectors. And although the economy picked up slightly in October (+0.5% of GDP), after a sharp decline the previous month (-0.6%), the outlook, especially outlined by the Bank of England, is not encouraging. In the third quarter, GDP had already fallen by 0.2% in the third quarter.

Red economic indicators

The country would have entered a recession that will last into 2023, or even longer, although this prediction has yet to be confirmed by the figures for December. The UK should globally experience the worst economic performance of the rich countries of the G7 over the next two years, the OECD warned last November. A major economic crisis, which according to many economists is explained by the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the health crisis of Covid-19, but also of Brexit. Leaving the European Union would thus weigh on foreign trade, business investment and worsen inflation by bringing down the British pound, which has depreciated by more than 10% since 2016.

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“There is a fair degree of consensus that Brexit has reduced the UK’s foreign trade by around 10-15% compared to a no-Brexit scenario”, said Jonathan Portes, an economist at King’s College, interviewed by AFP. Worse still, according to an article by the Center for European Reform (CER), a think tank dedicated to the EU in London, Brussels and Berlin, published last Wednesday, leaving the European Union would have cost the Kingdom more than £33 billion. USA, that is more than 37 billion euros. And the country’s GDP is 5.5% lower in the second quarter of 2022 than if the country had stayed within the twenty-seven.

“It is difficult to dispute that the additional administrative burdens arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the lack of membership of a new, deep and integrated free trade area such as the EU have consequences, analyzes Aurélien Antoine, university professor, director of the Brexit Observatory, pointing out the difficulties in supplying certain foodstuffs and the administrative customs fees required. All this costs money, time, it slows down exchanges. » According to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), more than half of the companies will find it difficult to adapt to the new rules. The lack of European labor is also being felt, particularly in certain sectors under pressure such as road transport, and the city recently condemned the allegations “red tape”i.e. increased procedural and administrative procedures for financial services since Brexit.

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A distorted public opinion

“The British have come out of an integrative, European system, it takes time to adaptnuances the university professor, author of Brexit, an English story (Dalloz, 2020). The Conservatives were wrong to say that this was a grand, very short-term opportunity, but conversely, it should not be said that Brexit is a failure forever.’

Also read – Why Britain is already suffering the consequences of Brexit

But do the British have time to wait? For 56% of them, leaving the EU was a mistake, according to a recent poll by the YouGov institute. A reverse opinion “legitimate”, analyzes Aurélien Antoine. And to add: “It is obvious that we cannot find that Brexit is a success and that it opens up engaging perspectives in a current situation of triple crisis: Brexit, Covid-19 and war in Ukraine.”

During the transition period, between 2020 and 2021, public opinion had also worsened, according to YouGov. The proportion of Britons who thought it was a bad idea to leave the EU had risen, while those who thought it was a good idea fell.

(YouGov/Financial Times)

Political instability and unity in the United Kingdom

Apart from the economic aspect, Brexit has had a clear impact on the political instability in the UK. “This Brexit has brought to mind the deep divisions on the Conservative Party’s European issue, suggests Aurélien Antoine. And he hasn’t recovered since. » Since the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union in 2016, five Prime Ministers have succeeded each other, from David Cameron to the current incumbent, Rishi Sunak. “From now on, a prime minister, whoever he is, is obliged to make promises to the right with an attitude of nature, at least in speech, hostile to the EU, explains the university professor. Which gives completely absurd bills such as the one currently being examined, which indicates that on December 31, 2023, all standards of European origin will be automatically removed from the legal order.. A titanic task, difficult to achieve in one year, the outcome of which risks creating many legal loopholes.

Another consequence of Britain’s exit from the European Union: territorial divisions have worsened. Scotland, led by Nicola Sturgeon, is pushing to hold an independence referendum. While Northern Ireland is in a political stalemate over the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated at the time of Brexit, which would create a customs border between the province and the UK. “Brexit was a disaster from the point of view of respect for the competences and authority of the constituent nations of the Kingdompoints out Aurélien Antoine. But above all, it played the role of accelerating and deepening pre-existing rifts. »

Brexit, which has been in force since 31 January 2020, therefore leaves a bitter taste for the British at the moment. But we must not overestimate its influence in the current crises, assures Aurélien Antoine. And especially to understand its role “accelerator”. “Brexit is a drop of water in the middle of a sea of ​​difficulties and structural problems identified for several years”he concludes.

The prospect of a reversal is in any case ruled out by the British authorities. “Let me be clear about this. Under my leadership, Britain will not seek any relationship with Europe based on alignment with EU laws.”said Rishi Sunak, an early Brexit supporter, in late November.

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