The vote by the UK parliament on whether to accept the European Union deal for an agreed exit of the UK from the EU on Tuesday (UK time) will mark the most important decision to be taken in that country’s post-war history. And it is very likely that the UK parliament will take the worst of two bad options – a ‘no deal’ hard Brexit.
The implications of a ‘hard Brexit’, in which there will be no arrangements in place for the UK to engage with its EU neighbors, include a slump in the value of the pound, crashing share prices and a country completely unprepared for rearranging all of its imports and exports.
The hard Brexit vote is expected because many Conservatives who currently hold government are opposed to what they see as a ‘water down’ or ‘partial inclusion’ EU deal. The Labour Party argues that the government of Theresa May has mishandled the Brexit process and will vote against it on those grounds.
Assuming the Brexit vote fails, there will very likely be a subsequent vote of no confidence in the prime ministership of Theresa May. While the Conservatives may vote to oppose a Labour motion, they will very likely push to have May resign as PM in any case.
If the Brexit vote somehow passes, the UK will still be impacted by the reduction of trade (if delayed pending agreement on full trade agreement), a serious threat to London’s status as Europe’s financial centre, and a subsequent long economic recession. Importantly, Northern Ireland will retain an open border with Ireland proper, which is essential for the Conservatives to retain the 10 parliamentary votes of the Democratic Unionist Party.
The arguments in favor of Brexit are that it would give the UK greater control over its budget, regulatory mechanisms and migration. However, the UK budget will be negatively impacted by the consequent economic downturn well beyond its relatively financial obligations to the EU and the UK will still have to comply with global standards and requirements, of which the EU is only a part.
Perhaps most importantly, and what has underpinned opposition to EU membership from the outset, is migration. The UK will lose many senior business actors while similarly losing access to European business opportunities with either a hard or soft Brexit, although a hard Brexit implies greater economic chaos.
But what has driven much support for leaving the EU has been a simple rejection of open access to the UK by non-UK citizens. This has corresponded to the rise of the populist nationalism and anti-immigration politics in Europe, and elsewhere.
Regardless of the vote, after Tuesday, the UK will be in uncharted economic territory. The only question will be whether it goes into that territory with at least a sketch of the possible landscape or, rejecting that sketch as inadequate, none at all.