A messy exit

January 16, 2022

The fact is that Britain can leave the EU but not Europe; they still need Europe

A messy exit

The British were aware of the negative economic and social implications of Britain’s secession from the European Union, but they respected the 52 percent “yes” vote in the referendum four years ago. Britain has paid a heavy economic and social price for maintaining its democratic traditions. It haddn’t compromise on the integration of the pound into the euro, keeping its visa policy and left-hand drive. As a member of the EU, Britain did not allow its traditions to be inflamed.

In 2021, Brexit ended the free movement between the EU and the UK. It reduced trade and social ties and incurred an economic deficit of £14 billion in the year leaving the youth frustrated. According to the Gomel Media Poll survey, “out of the 52 percent who said yes to the referendum, 42 percent regret their decision; 6 out of 10 voters think Brexit was worse than expected”. After a year of Brexit, the UK economy appears to be less open or ‘less global’ than before. Due to Brexit, Britain has faced a shortage of 1.5 million workforce including 100,000 lorry drivers, 80,000 peasant workers and 14,000 restaurant staff. Britain is also faced with challenges in terms of national unity because of the separatist movements in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Between the EU rules and UK’s deliberations, these two countries are still unsettled by the Brexit complications.

British Pakistanis have also been affected by Brexit. The number of unemployed British Pakistanis has increased since Brexit started, the rate of unemployment has risen to 6.7 percent. During this year, British immigration laws changed and brought some comfort to non-EU countries but there is still a lot of uncertainty. During the first year of Brexit, a startling agreement was made between Pakistan and the UK to repatriate illegal immigrants.

Though much seems to be up in the air, the British Pakistani traders can play a pivotal role in boosting economic ties between Pakistan and Britain because the UK’s key export markets are less reliant on UK’s goods, and the UK is less reliant on foreign goods. It is a time when trade elsewhere in the world is recovering all the losses. To achieve the easy goal, Pakistan’s High Commission in the UK has to wake up and make concrete plans daily.

Two lessons emerged from Brexit about the future of UK-EU relations. First, re-setting 47 years of economic integration will be slow and costly. It is hard to distinguish the economic effects of leaving the EU single market and customs union in January 2021 from those caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But, by August 2021, Britain’s total goods trade with the rest of the world had recovered by 7 per cent.

Matt Goodwin, a professor of politics at University of Kent, says, “Brexit has fundamentally transformed electoral politics. Both the vote for Brexit and Boris Johnson’s election victory in 2019 have led to a restructuring of Left and Right, whereby the Conservatives have become far more dependent upon the pro-Brexit workers and non-graduates.”

Brexit became a nightmare for those who thought that Brexit would bring back sovereignty, wealth and unity and to take back control. A year later, the United Kingdom itself is less united. There are differences of opinions between the four constituents of the United Kingdom (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England). The call for greater sovereignty has led to a less sovereign UK. Brexit, it turned out, was about sentiments and perceptions. The divorce deal is about the brutal reality of a mid-sized country, the country that invented market capitalism. Still, sovereignty today is not about borders, rather about size.

Economists believe that after the UK ended freedom of movement for EU citizens, the post-Brexit trade deal became the “biggest disaster any government has ever negotiated”. Some EU retailers have stopped taking orders from the UK. UK residents will have to wait another eight years to see if they have £4,300 each by 2030, as predicted. Britain’s Office of Budget Responsibility has revealed that gross domestic product has taken a 1.4 percent hit since the 2016 referendum.

Britain has concluded new deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The three countries represent a tiny share of UK exports. “Despite the unhappy headlines, a recent poll showing that 60 percent of Britons now think Brexit has gone “badly” or “worse than expected”, the chances of Britain re-joining the EU are next to non-existent. Brexit can allow the UK to boost its trade with the rest of the world.

It is pertinent to mention that the aviation industry in the UK has been adversely impacted. The airlines have been unable to schedule back up for even 50 percent of their daily flight operations. PIA, the national flag carrier of Pakistan, is expected to restore its operation from the UK and Europe. There are excellent prospects of progression waiting for PIA here. It would be a golden chance to restore the dignity of its glorious tradition.

The writer is a correspondent for Geo News, daily Jang, and The News in London

A messy exit