Of all the twenty-eight member countries that currently make up the European Union (EU), Great Britain could be seen as the awkward, odd one of the bunch. This is due to many British citizens feeling that their country should quit the European Union. Although it is entirely Britain’s right to leave the EU, what would happen if they were to do so? It is a question which has been a source of contention, both for the people of Britain and the remainder of the European population. The possible Brexit, as this scenario has been dubbed, could bring about major ramifications, especially in the context of the political and economic fields in Britain, as well as other countries that belong to the EU, and most importantly their citizens.
This unique situation of a possible Brexit did not come about overnight. Surveys that were conducted with the British public showed a majority feeling of worry and distrust towards these new member nations, mainly due to the fact that they were made up of unskilled workers. However, at the time these surveys were taken, not many Britons were willing to openly voice their feelings of their country leaving the European Union. As New York Times reporter, Matthew Goodwin, put it, “[…] the average voter acted like an unhappy spouse: dreaming of alternatives but reluctant to end the relationship” (Goodwin). Now though, there is a growing amount of public opinion for Britain to exit the EU. In a poll taken in the latter half of 2015, the results showed only a negligible difference between the amount of support to remain a member of the EU versus the amount of support to leave the Union. Things like the Europe Immigration Crisis, the growth of EU imposed regulations and laws on Briton, and others have lead to this change in opinion towards the EU.
The most influential politician in Britain, and arguably the one who will be most affected by the Brexit, is Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron is of the minority view in Britain, meaning he is pushing for his country to remain a member of the European Union. The referendum that Cameron has called for, will likely be the most important event of his political career, as well as British politics, in general. If Brexit were to be approved by voters, Cameron and his political allies would likely be ousted of office soon after, especially given how hard of a campaign Cameron has fought in order to avoid a Brexit. Before the referendum was announced, Cameron had gone about completing renegotiation with the EU, in regards to the terms of Britain’s membership. “In all four areas where he demanded change, he won concessions that could prove useful, even if they do little to swing the result of the referendum” (The Brexit Delusion; Britain and the EU). The situation Cameron is in is unique. It seems as if he has done too little, too late.
Looking at a possible Brexit, and what such a move could mean for the Economy, of not only Britain, but also Europe, there is not a whole lot of optimism to be found. The British sterling is often regarded as the most liquid British financial asset and thus, the most likely to be impacted negatively by a Brexit. Looking into other concerns, especially those of investors, one major aspect Britain will have to deal with is how to regain access to the European single market. In all reality, it would likely take “[…] two years to organize a Norway-type deal, in which Britain has access to the single market […]” (The Markets After Brexit). This could spell disaster for business, as importing and exporting companies would not know the exact terms of what it would cost to move products internationally from and to Britain. To make matters worse, Britain’s collective credit rating would undoubtedly drop, following a Brexit.
One other area of Britain and Europe’s economies which will be greatly affected by a Brexit is trade. In order for Britain to retain a viable trade-friendly atmosphere, the county would need to negotiate a deal where they would have access to free-trade with the European Union members. Such deals are in place already with countries such as Norway, South Korea and now Canada, to name a few. To broker such a deal though would take a good amount of time, given the fact that normal trade talks can take a while and due to the fact that Britain does not have many trade negotiators. This ordeal would likely take several years.
One of the European Union nations most likely to be affected by a Brexit, and already previously mentioned is Germany. Of all the member countries, Germany is easily the one with the most to lose, should the Brexit actually happen. German investors, budding financial centers and exporters will all be negatively affected. This would dramatically affect how investors view Germany, given the nation’s strict regulations that have come from being a EU member. While some may believe that a Brexit could bring about the importance of Frankfurt as a European financial center, this outcome will likely not happen. German exporters may indeed be the worst ones off. In 2015 alone, German trade with Britain topped 50 billion euros ($57 billion). Even though the UK could enter into a trade agreement like the one with Norway, any such agreement will likely take time. Time which will devastate German business.
The research that I have completed for this project has shown that there is a lot on the line for, not just Britain, but also the rest of Europe, and arguably the world. The United Kingdom stands to suffer in both, an economic and political sense. With so much at stake, the natural question that comes up is, how can Brexit be worth it? The short answer is that it is not. Despite this though, the feeling that many British people have of wanting to be free from the international control and regulation posed by the EU can be seen as a fear unto its own. In their eyes, this may even be a fear that is a lot scarier than the fear of what may happen after the Brexit.