Brexit: The mother of all uncertainties

BrexitIn the aftermath of last week’s EU referendum, the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty, writes Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as he outlines two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

So the British people have voted by a margin of around 4%, a little more than 1 million votes, to leave the European Union (EU). Where this will lead lies somewhere between two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

On the positive side, we can imagine that the months before the election of the new British Prime Minister in October see some healing of the great divide that has opened up in the UK, a decision by Scotland not to pursue independence, and Sinn Féin not to pursue a referendum on Irish reunification, a steadying of the economy by the Bank of England and current Chancellor, and therewith a steadying in both the stock and currency markets. Then, in October or November, the new Prime Minister presses the button on Article 50, to be met by a conciliatory European Commission which, over time, makes it clear that UK Associate Membership of the Internal Single Market can indeed be accompanied by restrictions on EU freedom of movement and less need for the UK to implement EU legislation. This takes the heat out of the UK Brexit impulse, so that agreement on UK/EU terms of engagement, which involves minimal disruption to trade and investment, swiftly follows. Businesses and the financial sector heave a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. The damage of Brexit to the UK and EU economies, and to the UK and EU politically, is minimal, far less than was forecast by practically everyone. ‘Experts’, especially economists, become the butt of more jokes. In five years’ time the UK’s position in Europe is a bit like Norway’s, but immigration has been restricted by the new curbs on freedom of movement. Leavers are delighted and say ‘I told you so’. Remainers are mightily relieved that the meltdown they feared has not occurred. The curbs on the freedom of movement of labour are used by other EU Member States to take the heat out of their populist movements. The ‘reformed’ EU continues more or less as before. Continue reading

Lies, Damn Lies and Leave.EU Leaflets

brexit muffinsAs the Brexit campaign heats up, many of us are receiving leaflets urging us to vote either “in” or “out”. Whilst it is to be expected that each camp will attempt to frame the argument in a way that favours its cause, the Leave.EU leaflet makes claims that are clearly misleading. UCL academics Randoph Bruno, Filipa Fiquiera and Jan Kubik set the record straight.

Leave.EU Leaflet: “In 1975 we voted for a Free Trade Area known then as the Common Market”

The first sentence and already we have been misled. The European Economic Community (also known as the Common Market) which the UK joined back in 1973, was not a simple Free Trade Area and this was made clear to voters at the time of the 1975 referendum. The official UK government pamphlet, which was sent to all British homes prior to to the referendum, stated prominently the following:

The aims of the Common Market are: to bring together the peoples of Europe; to raise living standards and improve working conditions; to promote growth and boost world trade; to help the poorest regions of Europe and the rest of the world; to help maintain peace and freedom.

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Migration, border security and the EU referendum

The Leave caBrexit-migrationmpaign argues Brexit would give Britain back its control over immigration. Even if that were true, the current situation suggests control best comes through cooperation, says Conservative MP Damian Green. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

Migration is one of the most emotive topics in the debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union. For those who favour leaving, the UK’s membership has become synonymous with uncontrolled migration. They believe that only by leaving the EU would the UK be able to restore control over its borders and reduce migration. As a result immigration is assumed to be one of the stronger cards held by the Leave camp. I think their analysis is simplistic and wrong, and that the weight of the argument for those worried about levels of immigration is in favour of remaining in the EU and using it to increase our ability to cope with immigration. Continue reading

Brexit is not an escape from EU regulation

bureaucracyPiet Eeckhout, Professor of EU Law at UCL, explains how the argument for a UK exit of the EU on the basis that it would reduce ‘red tape’ for businesses is a false one. He notes that to benefit fully from the EU market, which is arguably one of the UK’s most important markets, the UK would still need to implement EU regulation but in the case of Brexit, would no longer be able to influence what that regulation is.

One of the recurring themes of the Brexit debate is that the EU is said to impose an excessive regulatory burden on UK companies and on the UK economy. Remarkably, a substantial number of business people also adopt such a position. As a mere academic I am of course not in a position to disprove assessments within companies that EU membership has led to more ‘red tape’. But I do feel that some basic facts are missing from the conversation. They concern the reasons for EU regulation, and the question whether Brexit equals escape from it. Continue reading