Analysis & Opinions - METRO U.N.

What Brexit Means for the World

| May 01, 2019

When contemplating Brexit, particularly a ”hard” Brexit without agreements with the EU, the outside world is deeply puzzled how a Britain that built up a world-wide empire, spearheaded industrialization, and victoriously fought two world wars could produce such a calamitous act of self-harm, severely hurt its economy, undermine its international standing, and possibly threaten its national integrity  by reviving conflict in Northern Ireland and inducing Scottish independence. How a political class, admired for its professionalism, could succumb to such an amount of dilettantism, petty tribalism, lack of patriotic foresight, and self-delusion about a Britain alone, remains a mystery to outside observers.

The world sees Brexit, like the election of Donald Trump, as an example of how populism, based on false facts and unrealistic promises, has succeeded in fatefully altering a nation’s course by stirring up fears and fomenting prejudice.

The world now watches how Britain will steer through the potential chaos of Brexit, the measures necessary to counter the economic losses, the renegotiation of some 40 trade treaties, and the efforts of British diplomacy to reshape Britain’s international relevance. Will the country overcome its fractious divisions to produce the minimum of a united national effort to master that task? Britain’s partners and allies, particularly in the EU, have every interest in the success of   this effort, since Britain remains a major partner in the global economy and an indispensable contributor to European security and the survival of democracy in the world.

Though it is estimated that a “hard” Brexit will cost Britain about eight times more than the EU, it will also do economic damage to the EU, less to the large countries but much more to smaller countries like Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands which have a large share of trade with the UK (respectively 15 % and 10% of GDP). The pressure to reestablish as much open trade as possible will therefore remain strong after Brexit.

While Brexit will hurt the EU economically, it will not undermine the EU’s global role as the world’s second largest economy and the third largest agglomeration of consumers. Its economic negotiating power will remain considerable and comparable to that of the US and China.  

As one of the three largest powers of Western Europe and a permanent member of the UN Security Council Britain’s departure from the EU weakens the grouping politically, and the outside world is likely to see it that way. Moreover, some would argue that Brexit would upset the balance created by the joint presence of Britain, France and Germany, thus potentially undermining stability in Europe, in particular given the rise of nationalism. Brexit inevitably renders the Franco-German relationship even more important, indeed, makes it central for the future of the EU.

But Brexit has also had some unexpected effects that strengthen the EU. In the field of security, the removal of Britain’s traditional role of blocking European approaches made a number of new initiatives possible. In the political field the chaotic developments surrounding Brexit have demonstrated the difficulties of leaving, thus immediately deterring any idea of following such an example among other members, even among Euro-skeptic parties. More important, Brexit, in combination with other critical developments such as Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and the migration crisis, activated a sense of self-preservation and a new dynamism to strengthen the EU and its external role.  The Union’s common stance during the EU-China summit in April 2019 provides the latest example.

As the world watches the developments around Brexit there is still a glimmer of hope that the British may regain their traditional common sense and pragmatism and soften the Brexit or, even better, forgo it. The sigh of relief would be world-wide.

  – Via the original publication source.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kaiser, Karl.“What Brexit Means for the World.” METRO U.N., May 1, 2019.

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