Spotlight: Britain in further uncertainty as Brexit delayed until October

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-13 01:31:59|Editor: yan
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LONDON, April 12 (Xinhua) -- After marathon talks in Brussels earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May reached an agreement with her European Union (EU) counterparts to postpone the Brexit deadline to Oct. 31, averting the fate of Britain crashing out without a deal on April 12.

The new deadline hands May extra time to try to get her original deal passed through parliament - once again or to make amendments to the deal if it fails to pass, plunging the country into further uncertainty.

European Council President Donald Tusk pointed to future developments being "entirely in the UK's hands", urging the UK to rethink its strategy or choose to "cancel Brexit altogether".

Although an extended deadline prevents a No Deal scenario for now, many experts are concerned that it could have wider impact - especially on the functioning of the country's economy.


In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Geraint Johnes, professor of economics at Lancaster University, said that an extended deadline could be detrimental to the UK economy.

"The uncertainty up to this point has been damaging to the UK economy. Several studies have pointed to a loss of GDP of between 500 million pounds (654 million U.S. dollars) and 900 million pounds (1.178 billion U.S. dollars) per week since the referendum," said Johnes.

"In large part this is due to a collapse of business investment. This was growing at over 3 percent per year before the EU referendum (2016), but it has grown by less than 1 percent a year since - and it turned negative part way through last year," the professor explained.

However, compared to the prospect of a No Deal, Johnes believes that a delay is favourable.

"Anything that prevents a no deal is a good thing. This really can't be emphasized too strongly - there is a lot of popular support for no deal, but this support seems to come from an ideological craving for freedom rather than any economic considerations," he noted.

"The economic consequence would be dire, and those least able to bear the burden would suffer most. The economics here really have to dominate, and no deal should be ruled out altogether," Johnes added.

In a statement released earlier this week, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said retailers would be glad to see 'no deal' being put off by the extension.

However, she added that too much was being spent by businesses on the uncertainty of Brexit.

"Businesses are spending hundreds of millions of pounds putting in place for mitigation against a no deal Brexit - this represents time and resources that would be better spent improving customer experience and prices. Retailers cannot continue to spend this money indefinitely. A solution is needed, but moreover, a strategy for reaching a solution is still needed."


The ball has now fallen back in the UK's court -members of parliament must decide on a deal to present to the EU before the new deadline.

May has said that if her original deal, which was agreed with the EU, is passed, the UK could leave the EU "as soon as possible".

Johnes believes that there is a chance that her deal, despite being repeatedly rejected by the house, could be pushed through.

"The cross-party approach that May has adopted over the last couple of weeks offer the possibility that a majority could coalesce around a deal that differs from the one that she has unsuccessfully tried to get through parliament on three occasions. The likelihood is that this would be a somewhat softer Brexit, involving a customs union."

But winning cross-party support for her deal has proved difficult for May, in a house that has been repeatedly criticized for not efficiently cooperating on a "way forward". A series of indicative votes have shown that there is no clear majority of support for any proposed plan so far.

In a statement this week in Parliament, May told MPs that the extended delay meant that the UK would hold full EU membership rights, and the country "would continue to be bound by all our ongoing obligations as a member state, including the duty of sincere cooperation."

Dr. Mark Garnett, senior lecturer on politics at Lancaster University, told Xinhua that he believes the UK now have to participate in the EU elections, which could have a 'decisive effect' on May's future and 'everything else Brexit-related'.

But Garnett rules out the possibility of a referendum or general election, saying May's future is based on the success of her deal.

"My own view is that May will stay as leader until either her deal wins parliamentary approval or (more likely) it becomes obvious that MPs will only back a Brexit deal if her 'red lines' are significantly revised.

"To a considerable extent Mrs May owes her continuing tenure of office to the failure of her negotiating strategy. Replacing her will seem like too much of a risk until such a time as parliament comes up with a more promising approach."

However, Thom Brooks, professor of law and government at Durham University, believes that the future of May has been thrown into question, prompting the possibility of a general election.

"A general election is probably more likely although May will want to avoid it if only to retain her office. This is because it would give a small glimmer of hope that she could win a majority and get her deal passed, but runs real risk of Labour sweeping the board clean."

On a more positive note, Garnett said a delay gave an opportunity for the UK government to consider other Brexit opportunities.

"It is likely to be a 'good thing' because it provides an opportunity for the eventual outcome to be based on a broader consensus," he said.

However, despite the agreement on an extension, the government said on Thursday that it would continue to "make all necessary preparations" for a no-deal Brexit.

Government sources said plans will likely evolve and adapt but would not stop, while the chance of leaving the EU without an agreement still remains.