Illustration by Hannah Robinson
The 31st of January marked “Brexit day”. For years now, Leave supporting politicians and large factions of the media have said that academics, industry and trade experts, and generally anyone with experience in this area, were simply ‘scaremongering’ when they talked about the risks and consequences of Brexit.
From the outset it may seem like this has been the case. We have not woken up to a recession or an imminent financial crisis. Similarly, there are not any additional traffic jams on the roads from Dover through Kent. And likewise, we aren’t seeing food shortages in the shops.
Altogether, nothing seems to have changed. This is because we are only now entering the negotiation stage of Brexit. The past three and a half years have only been the discussions that have created a withdrawal agreement. Now there will be extensive negotiations to create a trade deal and work out what relationship the UK will have with the EU going forward.
This is going to take some time. Britain’s ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers has said that it could take ten years to negotiate a UK-EU trade deal. The EU’s trade deal with Canada took seven years to negotiate, and with a group of several South American countries it took over 20 years. Taking Ivan Rogers’s estimation we can also expect that there will be two general elections in the time between now and the predicted end of negotiations. And the transfers of power from David Cameron to Theresa May and now to Boris Johnson show that we can expect tumultuous change from any new leader.
So, we can expect that Brexit will continue to be spoken about and discussed for at least several years to come. But what has it already given us? So far Brexit has cost the economy £130 billion with estimates suggesting that this will reach £200 billion by the end of this year. If this estimation is correct then this is “£23 billion more than the total cost of membership for the UK’s 45 years as an EU member.”
So, will it be worth it? Some say that leaving the EU is worth this price and argue that being able to create our own trade deals with other nations rather than through the EU will make us better off. I am not quite so certain.
What is clear is that the UK has lost its seat within the most powerful and successful international organisation in the world. To this day, the EU continues to create opportunities, prosperity and promote the values of peace, cooperation and unity. As we are increasingly faced with global challenges, international cooperation is the only way to resolve these issues. The EU has the strongest platform to do so. The UK is now in a worse position to actually be able to do anything about the threats we face.
Just like in most crises, young people will be the most adversely affected by the consequences of Brexit. After the global financial crisis, youth unemployment in the UK rose to almost 25%. Similarly, other issues will continue to be ignored, and young people will again bear the brunt of this. We have ten years to stop irreversible change to our planet, but we can expect ten years of UK-EU negotiations. Have we got Brexit done? No; this is only the beginning.