United Kingdom: Setting a date for the Brexit divorce
We now have a date for Britain’s “Independence Day,” said The Sunin an editorial. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will give formal notice to the European Union next March of Britain’s impending departure from the bloc, kickstarting exit negotiations that will take at least two years. She intends to fully seize back control of immigration policy from Brussels and slash the net influx of foreigners to the U.K. from 335,000 a year today to 100,000 by 2020—even if that hurts our ability to negotiate trade deals with Europe. “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again,” she said at this week’s Conservative Party conference. “We are going to be a fully independent, sovereign country.” May has proposed a “great repeal bill” that will change the status of EU regulations within British law so they can be scrapped as soon as we’re out. The prime minister has proved that she heard the voices of the 52 percent of Brits who voted in June to leave the EU. We want control of our borders, and if that means leaving the single European market, so be it.
Why can’t we have both? asked former Business Secretary Vince Cable in the New Statesman. The pillars of the EU are the free movement of labor and capital and the free trade in goods and services within the bloc. We’re assuming that opting out of the first means no access to the rest—but that’s not the deal with France and Germany. France has curbs on capital flows, while Germany “blocks free trade in services.” There is a possible deal that allows Britain to curb immigration while keeping trade flowing. We could, for example, issue work permits to EU nationals, said former Foreign Secretary William Hague in The Daily Telegraph. They couldn’t just move here and go on the dole, but they could work and live in the U.K., with limited access to benefits, so long as they have jobs. That way, our economy wouldn’t suddenly lose “the Europeans who help keep our restaurants, financial services, and agriculture running, but we will have control over who comes here and what we give them.”
May, a blunt realist, rejects that kind of “cake-and-eat-it” mentality, said Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. She knows that EU leaders won’t bend an inch. By this time next year, when we are in the throes of the exit negotiations, France and Germany will have had national elections, “the far right biting at their heels.” For whoever’s in charge then, “being beastly to the British will become an electoral necessity.” Expect a tough slog. The markets certainly do, said Michael Savage and Matt Chorley in The Times. The day after May spoke, the pound nose-dived to a 31-year low against the dollar. Chancellor of the Exchequer Peter Hammond “has warned the economy faces a ‘roller-coaster’ ride” between now and the final exit in a couple of years. Better buckle up.