Would No-Deal Brexit Really Be That Terrible For The UK?

It was a sad thing to see British Prime Minister Theresa May announce her resignation with tears in her eyes, lamenting she had wanted badly to deliver Brexit to the nation that voted for it.


But it wasn’t surprising because she had committed a serious sin when it comes to tough negotiations: she had tried to appease all sides. She had even promised another referendum vote on Brexit in order to try to appease the far-left Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn. With that attempt at appeasement, she angered the Conservative Party and they turned against her as well.

It was a classic example of what happens when you try to please everyone: you please no one.

Warnings began before her resignation that the UK may leave the EU with no deal — an agreement essentially outlining  the terms of a transition period and the relationship between the EU and the UK  — and those warnings almost universally declared that a no-deal Brexit would be much, much worse for the UK than it would be for the EU. Because the UK would be cast to the wind with nothing to tether them and the mothership in Brussels wouldn’t feel her loss very much.

But is that really the case? Would no deal codifying how the UK leaves and how it works with other EU member nations really be the worst thing for the UK?

The last Brexit deal May offered was, after all, not simply concerned with allowing a temporary customs bloc with the EU to address tariff and trade issues. It was designed to appease some of the more overtly political concerns one associates with progressive causes throughout the world.

Mrs. May’s latest Brexit deal differs from her previous one in that it offers Labour lawmakers more assurances on European standards on workplace protections and environmental rights.


So what would a no-deal Brexit look like. Here are some of the concerns:


The UK would revert to World Trade Organisation rules on trade. While Britain would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. The price of imported goods in shops for Britons could go up as a result.

Some British-made products may be rejected by the EU as new authorisation and certification might be required.

Manufacturers could move their operations to the EU to avoid delays in components coming across the border.


The UK would be free to set its own controls on immigration by EU nationals and the bloc could do the same for Britons. There could be long delays at borders if passport and customs checks are heightened.

The fate of expats – there are 1.3 million Britons in EU countries and 3.7 million Europeans in Britain – in terms of their rights to live and work would be unclear. It is likely that expats will seek to register as residents in whatever country they are living in.


Relevant EU laws would be transferred over so there would be no black holes in Britain’s lawbook.

Britain would no longer have to adhere to the rulings of the European Court of Justice but it would be bound to the European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU body.


The Government would not have to pay the annual £13 billion contribution to the EU budget. However Britain would lose out on some EU subsidies – the Common Agricultural Policy gives £3 billion to farmers.

It is likely that both the EU and the UK will have to honour financial commitments under the 2019 budget.

The Irish border

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would remain unresolved. While physical infrastructure has been vetoed, the border would become an external frontier for the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There would be pressure to enforce customs and immigration controls.

But the UK Government has said it would aim to avoid a hard border and, for a temporary period, there would be no new tariffs on goods crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland.


Basically, no-deal means that all of these issues would have to be negotiated after the UK leaves the EU — where it will be unencumbered by any agreement and will be free to make trade, border, and financial decisions completely on its own. As The Wall Street Journal put it:

Ardent Brexit supporters see no deal as the ticket to a bright future free from the long arm of EU regulation. They say it would mean no finicky negotiations over the Irish border or handing over billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to settle past commitments to the EU budget.

The U.K. would gain full control of immigration and trade policy and be free to pursue free-trade accords with the U.S. and other countries. Sure, they say, there might be short-term disruption while legal kinks are worked out. But the long-term benefits no deal brings outweigh the risks.

To be sure, there are many who believe the lack of a deal would negatively affect the UK and not the EU, which is why Brussels has shrugged over the negotiations in England.

Those on the pro-E.U. side have argued that Brexit would make Britain weaker, since it would leave Britain with no formal ability to influence decisions in its most important export market.

Maybe. But there’s plenty of consensus that the EU will ultimately come to the table to negotiate these matters and come to an agreement, either before the UK exits or after.

Both sides of the debate recognize that the U.K. and EU would sooner or later have to pick up the pieces after a no-deal exit and find legal agreements on how to manage their future commercial and security relationship. But they differ on which side would gain advantage from dealing with those issues after Britain leaves rather than before.


The question is: if the UK leaves without a deal, how quickly will Brussels decide they want to negotiate some of these matters? Certainly if the UK strikes out and begins trade deals with other nations — such as the U.S. — Brussels may reach out to London sooner rather than later.



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