Freedom not free for Britain as SA awaits Brexit
The sun may not be setting on the British Empire, but the island nation will be shrouded beneath stormy clouds for the foreseeable future. Negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union commenced last week in Brussels and it is evident that two years of turmoil awaits a once proud empire that now face the prospect of being the derided stepchild of Europe.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, has been given the mandate to lead the negotiation process and he has made it clear that British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, will struggle to secure significant concessions.
According to Theo Bekker, political analyst at the North-West University (NWU), British Prime Minister Theresa May, her Conservative Party and the pro-Brexit voting public underestimated the costs and consequences of this mammoth undertaking.
“There exists a lot of confusion within the British voting public regarding Brexit, signifying both a large degree of Euro scepticism and an unwillingness to stand separate from Europe. Furthermore, the total and massive costs of leaving the EU was not taken into consideration. It is, quite simply, just too expensive. Brexit will have severe consequences for trade, labour and industrial sectors, not to mention the headache that will be border control. There will also be huge disruptions for Brits living and working in Europe,” Theo explains.
There are 3,5 million EU citizens living in the UK and 1,2 million Brits in European Union countries.
Election leaves May, Conservatives weakened
“Britain has a weakened Theresa May. An election that May and the Conservative Party initially felt would strengthen them resulted in the opposite,” says Theo.
Before the recently held elections the Conservatives enjoyed 17% more support than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. The aftermath of the election saw the Conservatives lose 13% of their support while Labour gained 32% as the Conservatives conceded their parliamentary majority and a host of seats to both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.
May advocates for a ‘hard Brexit’, but her words that “no deal is better than a bad deal” may prove to haunt her.
Theo explains that: “In 2015 the British Social Attitude survey showed that 65% of Brits are Euro sceptic, but that only 30% of the respondents wanted to leave the European Union. When the referendum to leave the EU was held on 26 June 2016, 52% of voters indicated that they wanted to leave the EU while 48% wanted to stay. Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union was then triggered which outlines a two year process to leave the EU.”
Northern Ireland to the rescue?
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest party in Northern Ireland and the fifth largest in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The 10 seats won by the DUP was instrumental in aiding the May to form a minority Conservative government. The DUP are proponents of a ‘soft Brexit’ as the opposite will result in stricter border control between Northern Ireland and the rest of the Emerald Isle. The 499 km long border has no signposts or even markings and strict control will bring back memories of the tumultuous times known as The Troubles.
“The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, led by Arlene Foster, is even more conservative than their counterparts in the UK. They want more investment funds and tax benefits and if they don’t get these assurances, it will spell trouble for coalition between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionists,” says Theo.
Astronomical financial implications
Brexit will cost the United Kingdom a reputed €100 billion.
“It is an amount that would be able to fund the UK’s entire national health scheme for eight years. The UK has 750 contracts with 150 countries that has to be renegotiated within the next two years. If that can’t be done British planes won’t be able to take off. Medical services funded by the EU to the multitude of British workers on the continent will be Britain’s burden now and they did not budget for that. Scotland says if a ‘hard’ exit does happen they would want another referendum regarding independence,” says Theo.
“Germany will not allow any uncertainties in the EU and you have to ask if Theresa May has the leadership skills and public support to ease fears and tensions. The European Union is driving Britain into a corner. Every decision made must carry the approval of the 27 member nations and a ‘soft’ Brexit will not be acceptable. Freedom does not come free. The EU won’t allow Britain to have a footprint in the continent with much, if any, political say.”
Europe rejects Trump style politics
If, according to Theo, Britain manage to somehow stay or re-enter the EU it will mean the end of Theresa May and the Conservative Party as we know it. They’ll take a huge knock if they don’t manage to achieve a ‘hard Brexit’: “Theresa May’s headstrong conservative approached that tried to emulate Donald Trump’s ultra-conservative rhetoric backfired. The same can be said of Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. All three leaders tried to follow the same approach and all three failed. Trump’s brand of conservatism did not prove to be Europe’s saviour.
South Africa and Brexit
Britain is South Africa’s sixth biggest trade partner and South Africa is Britain’s biggest trade partner south of the Sahara. According to Theo, South Africa was acquitted of 85% of its export tax to the UK, but the remaining 15% could prove extremely costly when the UK is no longer part of the EU.
“According to the Reserve Bank, the economic impact on South Africa will be minimal except if the British economy implodes. That said, we will still feel the sting of higher export costs.”
Whatever the outcome, Britain will be unrecognisable from the one led by David Cameron and his Conservative Party a year ago.