While it’s largely dropped off the radar of American political media, Britain is still grinding its way forward toward their divorce from the European Union. Brexit is supposed to be finished no later than next year, but the current debate you’ll be hearing about is whether or not Prime Minister Theresa May will be “forced to settle for” a No Deal Brexit or if some accommodation will be reached with their soon-to-be former partners across the channel. But what does “No Deal Brexit” mean? Time Magazine actually has a pretty good primer on the definitions this week which sums it up nicely.
Today, Cameron’s successor Theresa May is no nearer to an answer after two years of negotiations with E.U. chiefs. And the possibility of the U.K. having to leave the E.U. without a working relationship with its closest neighbors — a ‘no deal’ Brexit — is beginning to look increasingly likely.
On Friday, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England called the level of risk “uncomfortably high.” On Sunday, Britain’s international trade secretary Liam Fox – a prominent ‘Brexiteer’ – said that Britain leaving with no deal was the most likely scenario.
If no deal is reached, Britain would withdraw from the E.U. on March 29, 2019, without any of the trade, customs and regulatory measures May’s government is currently negotiating to smooth Britain’s transition. At the end of August, the U.K. government will release detailed guidance to businesses on what will happen if the country crashes out of the E.U.
As I’ve mentioned before, I listen to a few different BBC podcasts each week and their comedians/commentators regularly tear May to pieces over this. Her critics love sounding the alarm bells, warning that a No Deal Brexit could lead to all manner of disasters, ranging from conflicts at the borders to food shortages or children being sacrificed to dark, pagan gods.
First of all, it’s important to remember that the EU hasn’t exactly been negotiating in good faith with Britain. Much of these proceedings were being handled by David Davis (commonly known as the “Brexit Bulldog”) until his recent resignation as Brexit Secretary. The Brits have put forward any number of offers to stabilize trade and border control questions, but the EU has simply rejected all of them, offering nothing in return except ridiculous schemes which would rob Britain blind, leaving them in disadvantageous positions in all their dealings.
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. The EU leadership is still furious at Britain for voting to leave and in something of a panic over the possibility that other member nations will follow suit. Looked at from that perspective, the reality is that the Brits may wind up being in a better position to negotiate new deals once they are out the door. That would give them options in terms of cutting deals with individual nations around the globe and/or with the EU has a whole.
But in any event, the idea that a deal has to be done before they leave seems absurd. There was a nation of Great Britain before the EU came into existence and there will be one after they leave. They have goods which are desired in Europe’s marketplace and they require imported goods from the continent. Deals will be struck because the market abhors a vacuum. As to their borders, setting up an agreement for the documents and procedures required for people to cross the channel is not a complicated matter. If the EU is annoyed at Britain taking control of her own borders, that’s on them.
So it’s probably not worth getting worked up over when you start hearing the moaning and wailing about a No Deal Brexit. Like most forecasts of a coming apocalypse, the reality always falls far short of the doomsayers’ predictions.