There are no two ways about it: Theresa May’s intention to take us out — not just of the EU, but also out of the European Single Market, the Customs Union and indeed “all parts of the EU” — is deeply damaging, and not just in economic terms. Here are some of the key implications of her speech, which will dominate the political agenda in the coming weeks and months.
It aligns Britain with Donald Trump, alienating us from other EU member countries, just as we start to negotiate with them.
It creates a disruptive economic “cliff-edge” when Britain leaves the customs union, as we will very quickly need to agree:
- a new trade deal with the EU,
- new deals with over 50 countries across the world with whom we currently have a favorable trade deal via the EU,
- a World Trade Organisation (WTO) schedule with over 100 other countries across the world
Each of these complex deals will all have huge potential for obstruction and delay – even if we seek to maintain the status quo.
It means leaving the European agencies where we and other European countries have pooled resources and cut costs by working together. This impacts on many vital policy areas:
- testing the safety of medicines
- standards in usage of chemicals
- maintaining safety standards in aviation
- coordinating cross-border criminal investigations
- regulating cross-border transport
- organising GPS systems
- fighting terrorism
- cooperating in innumerable scientific and technical fields
It most likely means a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, causing significant economic disruption and potentially undermining the peace process.
It gives Scottish Nationalists an excuse to call for a second referendum and potentially break away from the UK.
It means increasing government spending to replace EU money that has supported fisheries and agriculture.
It threatens the future of our public services by jeopardising both government funding and availability of skilled workers, such as doctors, nurses, teachers and care workers.
It creates uncertainty over workers’ rights and consumer protection if the UK becomes a bargain basement economy where companies compete purely on cost.
It threatens the loss of EU research funding and collaboration post 2020, diminishing the ability of UK universities to maintain their world-leading status and attract world class academics and fee-paying students from around the globe.
It risks losing banking and financial services as well as many more crucial businesses to other countries as they seek to avoid uncertainty, and to maintain the existing benefits of the single market.
Taking all this into consideration, it beggars belief that Theresa May can say she wants to make Britain a more global nation. Her Brexit vision will diminish the United Kingdom, creating a country that is politically isolated, economically poorer, socially divided and, to top it all, risks the possible destruction of the Union itself.