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Experts outline Brexit impact on UK, international issues

Impact on: UK governance, national identity and the future of the UK

Prof Thomas Otte, professor of diplomatic history, School of History

“In so far as domestic affairs are concerned, the referendum has plunged the UK in a deep, constitutional crisis. The vote to leave amounts to a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister and his government, whose policy has been rejected, however marginally. But it was also a vote of no-confidence in the political and economic elite.

“The consequences of this are impossible to forecast. The UK has been revealed to be deeply divided along regional, age and class lines. English nationalism will become a force to be reckoned with.

“The cohesion, and indeed the survival of the UK, must now be in doubt.

“David Cameron will now join Neville Chamberlain and Anthony Eden as the PMs remembered for one single, massive miscalculation. Everything points to Boris Johnson as the next leader, and he will have to fulfil expectations he has raised by promising to take back control of our borders. These cannot be fulfilled, as the economics and the politics of Brexit pull in two very different directions. Johnson and Gove decided to ride the tiger of anti-immigration sentiments, but they may find themselves inside the tiger’s stomach before too long. But the vote may also exacerbate the internal tensions within the Labour party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s half-hearted and lukewarm support for ‘Remain’ will have done nothing to win over his many internal critics.”

Prof Hussein Kassim, professor of politics, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“Despite the coming together of Conservative MPs, the Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he will leave office in October, and calming words from some pro-Leave Conservatives, it is by no means clear that the process of leaving the EU will be orderly or that a new leader will be able to satisfy the hopes that the ‘Leave’ campaign has raised among disenfranchised communities. Unlike a general election, referendum campaigners do not need to spell out the policies that they intend to implement in the case of victory.”

Dr Michael Frazer, lecturer in political and social theory, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“‘Remain’ accused ‘Leave’ of appealing to nationalism and xenophobia; ‘Leave’ accused ‘Remain’ of appealing to fear and economic anxiety. Both accusations were correct.

“The great irony of the Brexit referendum is that it was the ‘Leave’ campaign that spoke most powerfully to this passionate connection to something larger: the connection to Britain, which can take the form of either a noble passion for national sovereignty or a deeply ignoble hatred of immigrants and foreigners. ‘Remain’ had a golden opportunity to emphasize the connection to something larger still — to Europe, and by extension, the wider world. There were moments when they did so — former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s viral video on war and peace was a good example — but these were too little, too late, overwhelmed by the economic rhetoric of self-interest.”

Impact on: Trade and the economy

Prof Hussein Kassim, professor of politics, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“Not only is it unclear what kind of trade agreement a new prime minister will aim to negotiate with the EU or whether Conservatives who supported ‘Leave’ will be able to agree easily on the negotiating terms, but the outcome of the review of existing UK policies that are built on EU law will not please all in the coalition that triumphed on 23 June.”

Prof Thomas Otte, professor of diplomatic history, School of History

“The UK is also not prepared for the necessary unravelling of current arrangements. The ‘Out’ camp never spelled out what alternative arrangements it has in mind, and the UK government does not have the trade negotiators with the necessary expertise to conduct such involved and complicated talks – and there is no one amongst the ‘Leave’ political leaders to lead the Brexit talks with the other EU members.”

Dr Elizabeth Cobbett, lecturer in international political economy, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“The decision to leave means that Britain’s economy might actually be more closed to the world rather than more open as argued by the ‘Leave’ campaign. London is already the world’s leading financial centre, highly connected to global markets and Europe’s main financial trading market. The decision to leave the EU will not resolve Britain’s biggest issue of economic inequality within its borders. We can no longer blame our economy on everyone else. This is a political question that needs to be taken up seriously by Westminster.”

Dr Peter Handley, lecturer, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“There’s been some talk amongst those wishing to leave of the possibility of the UK reinvigorating its trading links with Australia in the event of a ‘leave’ result, based upon some Brexiteers’ assumption that Australia and the UK still retain ‘special’ ties of kinship left over from the time of ‘imperial preferences’ before the UK joined the then-EEC. 

“The Australian government, however, has expressed the view that while relationships with Britain remain very cordial, a vote to leave the EU is not one it would welcome and it will be less than enthused.

“Much like the USA, Australia views the UK as a useful conduit to the EU. Leaving the EU would mean having to set up time-consuming and costly negotiations of new bi-lateral arrangements with the UK. Australia has much bigger fish to fry, being on China’s doorstep.”

Impact on: International relations and European politics

Dr Ulrike Theuerkauf, lecturer in politics and international development, School of International Development

“My main concern lies with the implications this very worrying outcome has for the strength of far- right wing parties and those views in the UK and Europe. This referendum was a deeply polarising event that uncovered the strength of anti-immigration and defensive nationalist views in the UK.

“A lot will depend on how political leaders will handle the next few months, as the emotions that were stirred up in the referendum campaign coupled with a likely economic downturn as a consequence of the Brexit otherwise can become a toxic mixture for the future.”

Dr Nikos Skoutaris, lecturer in European Union law, School of Law

“The history of European integration has been a history of managing crises. The Brexit, however, marks a different unprecedented existential crisis for the European edifice. It is the first time that a member state (and in fact one of the big four) rejects the European project as whole, making it abundantly clear that the arrangement is not good enough for it.

“The challenge that the future UK withdrawal presents for the EU is so grave that one has to wonder whether it could successfully face it without far-reaching reforms. Given the endemic inertia of the EU, the ramifications of the current Eurozone crisis and the surge of eurosceptic movements, this sounds at the moment as mission impossible.”

Dr Eitan Tzelgov lecturer on European party politics, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“Things were looking grim for 'mainstream' parties in European countries before Brexit, but this event may prove to be a game-changer in party politics across the continent. Populist and anti-establishment parties in France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria, which have been challenging the dominance of established parties over the last few years, will be further emboldened by the developments in the UK.

“The UK vote is another testament to a major shift in European party politics; multiple political topics such as identity, economics, Europeanization and immigration are becoming intertwined and more salient. This creates new coalitions of voters and makes it more difficult for the old, 'establishment' parties, to maintain power.”

Impact on: security and political stability

Prof Thomas Otte, professor of diplomatic history, School of History

“There can be no doubt about the significance of this event.

“For 200 years, Great Britain has been a force for stability in Europe and the wider world. Now, for reasons purely of party management, Britain has become a destabilising force. This vote will unleash forces that will be difficult to control in the UK, and the same forces in continental Europe will receive a powerful fillip from this vote. The United States may well begin to look inward now.

“As for foreign policy, the vote is likely to accelerate the strategic shrinkage of the UK. Given the economic consequences of Brexit, it is not likely that the UK will be able to maintain its armed forces at their present level. This will affect the alliance-worthiness of Britain for the United States. Since 1973 EU membership has amplified British influence in Washington and elsewhere. The referendum has put a stop to this.”

Impact on: immigration and humanitarian issues

Dr Alexandria Innes, lecturer in international relations, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“It’s impossible to know how the referendum result will impact immigration. A lot depends on how our membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) is negotiated. It is possible to be a member of the EEA and not the EU. The free movement of European workers is an EEA rule rather than an EU one. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if European immigration does slump in the midst of the uncertainty, particularly because the fall of the pound and related recession is likely to make the job market contract.

“In terms of other types of immigration, the ‘leave’ result is likely to have a bearing on the UK’s ability to participate in the Dublin Regulation. Other European countries are unlikely to see an incentive in receiving removed asylum seekers from the UK if they do not have to under EU law, which is what currently stands. Since this means more asylum seekers will have to stay in the UK, I would like to say that this will have a positive humanitarian effect, but the current track record of the government indicates that limiting immigration is of greater importance to the government than recognising humanitarian need. However, it is impossible to evaluate the outcome with any certainty until we have seen the direction of the coming negotiations.”

Dr Marina Prentoulis, senior lecturer, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“This vote opens up a world of uncertainty – uncertainty that will be felt across the globe. In the difficult times ahead, we have to continue working together in order to defend migrant rights across Europe. We should not allow this vote to strengthen neither nationalism nor intolerance.”

Impact on: science and the environment

Viviane Gravey, senior research associate, School of Environmental Sciences

“Most environmentalists supported ‘Remain’, as scientific evidence clearly showed EU membership had been positive for the UK’s environment.

“A vote to leave creates major uncertainty for the UK’s environment, and how it is regulated. EU environmental and social policies were repeatedly described as creating ‘red tape’ during this campaign. A vote to leave thus puts enormous pressure on the environmental sector to defend existing policies.

“Whichever type of new relationship with the EU is negotiated, a different agricultural policy and fisheries policy will have to be decided, and nature-protection legislation is at risk.

“If the UK decides, after what is likely to be years of negotiation, on a looser arrangement (a free trade option), most EU environmental policies would cease to apply and could be dismantled.

“Meanwhile, the UK has been a driving force in EU action against climate change, shedding doubts on the ambition of future EU climate action.”

Dr Rupert Read, reader, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“The EU is the source of our law on the Precautionary Principle, the main way in which we guard ourselves collectively against potentially grave threats to our existence – threats such as dangerous climate change, 'geo-engineering', nuclear devastation. 

“If the Precautionary Principle is to survive and prosper in UK law, it now needs to be defended and brought properly and permanently into UK law. A secure future for us and our children depends on this."

Impact of: the media

Mr Mark Wells, lecturer in broadcast and multimedia journalism, School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies

“From a media viewpoint, the conduct of this campaign has raised a number of questions about the constraints placed upon broadcasters to deliver ‘impartial’ coverage of a binary choice. The requirement for such balance has made it very difficult for broadcasters to bore down into the claims of either side, and uphold or refute their claims, without having to immediately follow up with a comment of the “but on the other hand…” variety. The result has been a very confused electorate.

“At the same time, old media – the press – divided up on traditional lines and spoke to their own constituencies. Social media did that in spades. Those supporting ‘leave’ were deluged with leave postings, those supporting ‘remain’ were similarly flooded by remain posts. All of that did little to advance genuine debate.”