ur invitation to the debate Life after Brexit: A New Way Forward for the EU accepted Theresa Griffin, Member of the European Parliament, United Kingdom, Thomas Spiller, President of the British Chamber of Commerce, Belgium, Pavel Telička, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic, Luděk Niedermayer, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic and Ivan Hodáč, President of the Aspen Institute, Czech Republic.
The debate was not only about Brexit itself but also about the ways in which Brexit can be achieved. After all, all that is known is that Brexit means Brexit, but that is it. We have yet to see what the negotiations will look like. Some claim that the EU should be as harsh as possible towards the UK, while others are rather optimistic and believe in smooth negotiations and constructive outcomes.
Why has Brexit happened?
Media in Britain played a large role in the Brexit vote, and must shoulder some of the blame for Brexit’s victory. British newspapers in favor of Brexit had over four times as many readers as those newspapers which supported remaining in the EU. These newspapers, such as the Daily Mail and the Sun, routinely published articles criticizing immigration and the EU, and wrote about the negative ways in which both the EU and immigration affected British communities, job prospects and even British way of life. And for those who assumed that the influence of traditional media sources such as newspapers was on the wane, there was still the problem of those getting information about Brexit from alternatives sources, such as social media, were often only interacting with information with confirmed their existing beliefs.
Mr. Telička and Ms. Griffin both strongly agreed that one of the key factors that caused Brexit is a crisis of politics and a crisis of trust, which can be seen across the whole of Europe. People don’t trust politicians anymore and are more inclined to listen to populists. According to Mr. Hodáč people should have listened more to industries, and that these industries should have played a much more important role in the Brexit debate. On the other hand, Mr. Spiller is afraid that if CEOs and industries lobbied against Brexit, it would be rather counter-productive. It is not only politicians but also businesses and especially the banks who people distrust a lot.
What will happen next procedure wise
The European Union’s response to Brexit has been to close ranks for now. EU countries have taken a hard line and refused to enter into “pre-negotiations” with Britain before article 50 is triggered. The role of the European Parliament in legal terms is relatively small, however the possibility that it could block the Brexit deal gives it political clout.
What to do next
The exit of Britain from the European Union has created example for other countries and politicians across Europe who may want to leave the EU, and caused worry that Britain may not be the only country to potentially end up leaving. There are multiple parties across Europe who have made it clear that they would like their respective countries to leave the EU. The most notable example of this threat to leave the EU is of course, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right party the National Front and serious candidate to become President of France, who has expressed a high willingness to leave both the Euro and the EU. Other notable politicians across Europe who favor leaving the EU include Geert Wilders, the Dutch far right politician or far right Austrian Presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, who while saying that he doesn’t necessarily believe Austria should leave the EU, would be open to holding a referendum about it.
One of the positives that may have come out of the Brexit vote in terms of preventing another country from leaving, is that there will hopefully be better communication to the voters about the ramifications of what voting to leave really means, with the confusion that it has wrought as well as the potentially harmful economic effects. It also gives an example to countries about what did and didn’t work in communicating a remain position, and what could be improved upon.
The British prospective – Therese Griffin on Brexit
Theresa Griffin, a European Parliament member from England, spoke about the potential negative effects of Brexit. With immigration being one of the most talked about issues of Brexit, Griffin noted that 15% of staff in British universities are foreigners. There is also the issue of research amongst the UK and other EU states which needs to be addressed, as this research should not be hampered by Brexit, as Griffin noted, “Cancer research knows no boundaries.” Griffin also talked about how Brexit has not really been discussed much in terms of energy. Britain imports around 6% of its electricity from Europe and 50% of its gas from inside and outside the EU, so there is a strong possibility energy costs will go up within Britain. Griffin represents the North West region of England in the European Parliament, and spoke about how despite the hugely negative perception that pro-Brexiters had of immigration, immigration has been a net positive in her region. In the 1980s and 1990s the North West Region suffered from under performance, but has improved since 2000. As banking is a major industry within Britain and there have been threats that major banks will pull out of England because of Brexit, the effect of Brexit could be much worse for Britain than for the EU countries.
The business prospective – Thomas Spiller on Brexit
Thomas Spiller President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, spoke about the effects of Brexit from a business prospective. He maintains that even with Brexit occurring, the UK will remain a very attractive market. He thinks that in terms of business, it is best to look at Brexit from the perspective of the UK simply leaving the EU, and not leaving Europe completely. Spiller spoke to the different members of the British Chamber of Commerce, and found that the majority of them favored the UK staying within the EU and opposed Brexit. Brexit has raised questions, and how to keep driving investments with all the uncertainty and subsequently, where to put all those investments. Something that Spiller thinks must be addressed with Brexit is how to get to the point where business’ needs can be satisfied.