On Wednesday the 19th October, hosted by The Spectator magazine, Andrew Neil and James Forsyth headed a talk in London, discussing the political and economic issues of Brexit, as well as the measures that need to be taken in order to ensure its success.
James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, opened discussions stating that the media constantly reminds us that the government doesn’t have a plan regarding Brexit, but forgets to mention that the EU doesn’t either. MEP Guy Verhofstadt rejected the idea that the EU has a definitive plan for the Brexit negotiations but did add that he and his colleagues would draft a “very politically biased resolution,” after the triggering of Article 50. Forsyth then commented on how Brexit was just one of several big issues that are concerning EU officials in this politically turbulent climate, with Europe’s ongoing constitutional crisis and the issues surrounding Greece. According to Forsyth, Brexit “is evidently one of the biggest political changes in forty years, and there is still much planning and negotiating to be done.”
Amet Gill, senior advisor to David Cameron, began by telling of the some 20,000 laws that have come back up for grabs since Britain voted to leave the EU. However, a comprehensive study suggests that the legal workload could be double that amount, with up to 40,000 laws coming under scrutiny. The great repeal act will be used to decide which EU directives and regulations to uphold and implement into British law, which to amend, and which to scrap altogether. Gill added that the discretionary power of the executive (Theresa May), would be a key instrument in ensuring a prompt and smooth exit. Without her, parliament would have to debate every single EU law, which inevitably stalls the Brexit process. Andrew Neil then contributed, saying that these issues are likely to be exacerbated by hurdles in the EU, citing issues regarding the Canadian deal. Amet pointed out how this illustrates that the primary goal of the EU is to preserve the great European project, and if they have to punish the UK to preserve this ideal, they will. Therefore the key aim is to enable the British government full control of immigration and legislative power, as a first step to ending EU supremacy.
Gerald Lyons, co-chair of “Economists for Brexit”, focussed on domestic agenda as the UK prepares to leave the EU, and the aim to “increase investment, which will lead to greater productivity to the rest of the country as well as London.” He remarked on the issues of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit, saying that it shouldn’t be viewed in this way, but seen rather as ‘clean’ or ‘messy’. A clean exit is one of complete severance, not only from the EU’s legislative supremacy, but also from its single market. The much less preferable messy break is one in which the UK still remains a member of the single market. He added “it must be made clear to the world that Britain is an open economy.” Gerald went on to say that whilst people fear that Britain is now seen to be unstable economically, Asia sees the UK in a positive light. He outlines why this is encouraging, as virtually all of the market innovation takes place in countries like India and China due to them being a free market.
Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and chair of the “Change Britain” campaign, started by discussing how there have been issues between the UK and the EU ever since The Maastricht Treaty disputes, in which the UK avoided going over to the Euro. Gisela then remarked on the notion that this referendum is proving strange as, unlike an election, the losers (Remain) are demanding that the winners (Leave) explain themselves, i.e. to show a concrete plan on just what they mean by ‘Brexit’. Unusual responses from the referendum occurred in Scotland too, where both Labor and Conservative Remainers left to join the Scottish National Party. She moved to talk about the deception of ‘soft’ Brexit, and how this notion is simply the Remain movement renamed, as a soft Brexit still leaves the UK a member of the single market. Gisela stated that “Brexit is not a question of racism but fairness,” arguing that the EU defends low skilled jobs whilst simultaneously discriminates against those outside of the EU, and that the “media is in a state of grieving,” with papers like the Guardian and the Independent capitalising on this angst.
Andrew Neil tied the discussion together by addressing the negative press, arguing that “Theresa May is playing her cards close to her chest” with Brexit. This is a gap within the narrative that the Remain movement is filling, with the aid of an inherently pro-Remain treasury. He then remarked on one of the most talked about ‘crises’ the media refers to, the devaluation of the pound. Neil argued that this issue has been blown out of proportion, stating that the sterling has been overvalued for some time and that this decline is simply a return to its more tangible value.
Perhaps the most pertinent issue Neil discussed was Nicola Sturgeon’s mission to keep Scotland a member of the EU by way of independence. He argues that this eventuality is unlikely to occur for a number of reasons. First, Sturgeon’s wish of having an independence referendum presents a huge gamble for her politically, as her entire career hinges on the vote being successful. Should the Scottish vote against independence, she’ll be out of office after only two years in power. The second issue he raised was regarding the Scottish exports to the rest of the UK, which could run the risk of being hindered by European regulation. The third, and arguably the most significant issue is currency. Sturgeon intends to keep the pound sterling, which is somewhat of an issue for the EU because, as Neil pointed out, “she wants to go to the EU and say ‘we want to remain a member, but we want to keep the currency of a country (Britain) which is leaving the EU.’ No chance!” Her options are to either create her own currency or go over to the Euro. However, Neil claims the Scottish people will wholeheartedly reject it upon seeing the fiscal damage it’s done to Ireland.
He concluded the talk by saying that Brexit has the potential to open up many opportunities for Britain not only economically, but also politically. This sentiment was furthered by James Forsyth who said that “Brexit can allow for a more honest and open politics where unknown elites can’t just do as they please. Having an accountable government is very important to amending public discontent.”
It is clear that there is much work to be done, and done well, in order for Britain to successfully exit the EU. The panel revealed that there are many obstacles to overcome, be it European bureaucrats or policy difficulties, in order to make Brexit work. However, if an exit from the European Union means that the UK can join the rest of the developing world, rich with market innovation and economic growth, then tackling the impending obstacles seem worth it. With an end to EU supremacy, the UK is free and unchallenged in its attempt to tackle the social, political, and economic issues that have so far hindered its ability to flourish.