Is there an Alternative to BREXIT?

27/06/2016  -  4.05

Martin Dangerfield - Professor of European Integration at the University of Wolverhampton

The European Union referendum campaign exposed both the complexity of the issue(s) and how poorly informed the electorate are about the EU in general and the UK’s relationship with it.

The decision to leave will have far-reaching and very difficult to predict consequences for the UK, the rest of Europe and globally. One thing that will quickly become clear is that this event will dominate UK politics for quite some time to come and seriously divert attention and resources from the many other issues and problems that the UK also faces.

The vote is just the beginning: the actual process of disentangling the UK will be complex, expensive and take a long time. 

As the Financial Times reported last week top UK civil servants expect Brexit to pose a “pretty all-consuming task for Whitehall” that will be “something akin to a legal “revolution” that would dominate the Queen’s speech for the next five to 10 years”. The next and vital stage will be to agree what kind of future relationship the UK will have with the EU.

The best and least disruptive option would be to join the European Economic Area, which would remove EU-level decisions from some policy areas (agriculture and fisheries, for example) but would retain access to the EU Single Market. This may be less than Brexiteers hoped for and difficult to sell to the public because free movement of people is part of this arrangement. It could, however, become an increasingly attractive or even necessary option if the economic realities of detachment from the Single Market that have already shown themselves in the last few days - for example the reactions of Morgan Stanley and Airbus – continue.  Both the Remain and Leave campaigns sold the British people short and the end result in terms of the ‘new’ relationship with the EU could also sell British democracy short too.

Martin Dangerfield is Professor of European Integration at the University of Wolverhampton. He also holds the positon of Jean Monnet Chair in the European Integration of Central and East Europe.