The 29th of March is Brexit Day, the date when the UK is officially scheduled to leave the European Union. But what is likely to happen on and after that date? We weigh up the options and the implications.
Take it or leave it!
At the time of writing, Theresa May appears to be pursuing one single tactic: stalling for time until the UK parliament is faced with the stark choice of either voting for her withdrawal agreement or leaving the EU with no deal. Despite repeated visits to Brussels to try and tweak a deal that the EU had already approved last year, May and her team have made little progress, especially on the thorny issue of Irish border arrangements.Read more...
May has repeatedly ruled out a second referendum and the extension of Article 50 – options which have considerable support among backbenchers, but not yet enough to win a majority vote. After stating that she would seek cross-party agreement she also rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s six-point plan to amend the withdrawal agreement.
No one doubts May’s determination to force her deal through as the least worst option, but as the 29th March approaches, things could start to move very fast indeed.
At the time of writing, three outcomes appear to be likely:
Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement was approved by the EU, but resoundingly rejected by parliament in December. To force it through parliament, May will have to satisfy her Unionist allies in the DUP as well as the hard Brexit advocates of Jacob Rees Mogg’s ERG. If this isn’t possible, she may try to win Labour MPs over.
An influential section of the Conservative party still favour a No Deal exit, and this desire for a “pure” Brexit is also popular with the public. However, business has warned of the devastating results of leaving without a deal, and even Brexit hardliners admit that the effects will take years to recover from.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has so far resisted calls for a second referendum, preferring to call for a General Election. However, neither of these options can yet command a majority in parliament, meaning that a final option may be probable.
As the clock ticks down, and the UK’s lack of a workable plan becomes clear, there is likely to be greater support for an extension period. This could last well over a year, and will require agreement from the EU. It will also have the effect of kicking the can further down the road.
Europe without the UK
While there has been plenty of conjecture about how the UK will fare outside the EU, there has been less information about how the UK’s departure will affect the EU.
A Smaller Union
There is no doubt that the loss of the EU’s second biggest economy will seriously affect the EU. The UK is a net contributor to the tune of almost €9 billion a year, and its departure will make the EU’s economy smaller than the USA’s for the first time in decades. Angela Merkel’s Germany will be even more powerful and influential in a post-Brexit EU, and its economic performance is likely to dictate the future of the Euro to an even greater extent.
Analysis by the Financial Times suggests that growth will increase in the EU following the UK’s departure, while unemployment will rise. However, these predictions are based on subtracting UK figures from overall EU statistics. In reality, things will be a lot more complicated than that.
Politically, the effect will be less notable. The 20 Labour MEPs currently sitting in the S&D grouping in Brussels are the only ones who can be considered to be at the “high table” of EU policy-making after the Conservatives withdrew from the dominant EPP group in 2009. The loss of 73 UK MEPs will reduce the number of seats in Brussels from 751 to 678.
The departure of the Conservatives will severely weaken the ECR group in Brussels, and the absence of British SNP, Green and Plaid Cwmru MEPS will weaken the Green/EFA alliance. Meanwhile other groupings, such as the UKIP-dominated EFD, may disappear altogether.
More worrying for the EU is the simple fact that a successful Brexit will show that it is possible for a major member to leave the union. The recent rise of right-wing populism throughout the European continent has gone hand-in-hand with a surge in Euroscepticism that has also been fuelled by the EU’s post-crisis austerity policies.
In Italy, both the Five Star party and the Northern League have expressed strongly Eurosceptic views, with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini especially critical of the Euro. France also offers a bleak scenario for the EU, as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally movement, which also favours “Frexit”, currently runs neck and neck with Emmanuel Macron’s Republique En Marche party.
The EU elections in May are likely to show a new political landscape in Brussels – one where the moderate, conservative and unified nature of 21st century EU parliaments will be shaken by new populist, nationalist voices. Brexit may just be the first of many ruptures.
The Canarian grocery industry has set up a board to deal with the possible effects of Brexit on the islands’ tomato and cucumber exports.
50% of Canarian tomatoes and cucumbers are destined for the UK – a trade that goes back decades to the times when the only ripe tomatoes available in British winters came from these sunny isles.
The Canarian Federation of Exporters (Fedex) will meet with Canarian government representatives to analyse and plan for the effects of both hard and soft Brexit scenarios. They’ll also take into the account the fact that, as the UK will become a “third country”, EU grants under the POSEI support scheme for producers in remote areas and islands will no longer be available.
Fedex President José Juan Bonny welcomed the initiative, saying “We don’t want to have to abandon such an important and historic market, which we’ve been enjoying trade relations with for 130 years.”
While the possibility of a no-deal Brexit remains, the British and Spanish governments, as well as the Canarian authorities, are working to protect UK residents and prepare local businesses.
UK residents in the Canaries, as well everyone involved in the Canarian economy, are hoping that a no-deal exit does not take place. Under Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, things will largely stay the same until Dec 2020, and an extension period will have a similar effect.
However, no-deal remains a threat, and the British Embassy has advised all UK residents
in Spain to have their documentation in order before March 29th. The Spanish government has assured the rights of UK residents to stay after B Day, and is working to ensure healthcare provisions are continued. There will be no boats shipping expats back home.
Tourism is another huge worry for the islands, with the British market accounting for around half of all visitors to the islands. A proposal to reintroduce tax-free shopping for UK tourists has been proposed, but is unlikely to compensate for the predicted fall in tourism that a no deal exit would bring.
As a result, Canarian tourist authorities are looking elsewhere, actively courting new, undeveloped markets in Europe. There is also a focus on attracting wealthier tourists and a renewed commitment to dynamise the Canarian appeal as a sporting and food destination.