When the day ended on June 23, 2016, it felt like the entire world was going to change. The population of Britain voted with a 52% majority to leave the European Union. Gone would be the 40 years of building relationships as the people decided it was better for their country to push forward alone.
After two years of negotiations on how to make this happen, the Parliament voted in January 2019 to conclusively tell Prime Minister Theresa May to start new talks with the European Union instead of taking the deal.
That could take what was available off of the table for the country, creating a concern for a “no deal” arrangement.
The departure date is set for March 29, 2019, and at the time of this writing, there is nothing in place that offers Britain a deal. There isn’t even an option to have another referendum on the deal at this point. It will be something that happens one way or another.
At this stage (and for several years afterward), the pros and cons of Brexit are mostly theoretical based on information that we can infer from the past two years of negotiations. Here are some of the critical points, however, to look at closely.
List of the Pros of Brexit
1. Brexit may help the country experience immediate cost savings.
One of the reasons that Brexit passed during its referendum involved the cost of membership to the European Union. Britain paid £13.1 billion in membership dues to the multinational structure in 2016, while receiving just £4.5 billion in return through spending. That means the nation experienced a loss of £8.6 billion in just the one year. If you were to multiply that figure over a decade, then the savings would create a sufficient cash reserve that could be useful in a variety of ways.
2. Brexit would shift the emphasis of trade for Britain.
The EU-28 is treated as its own import/export block on the global stage. Britain sends over 50% of their exports to countries in this bloc.
Separating themselves from the European Union gives the country an opportunity to negotiate its own trade partnerships instead of relying on the multinational governing body to do it for them. Although they would no longer benefit from the trades arranged by the EU, they will also have the final say in what happens instead of being a contributing voice to the process.
3. Brexit establishes the sovereignty of Britain.
Being part of the European Union requires Britain to give up some of its unique identity. They were forced to give up some control over their domestic affairs to maintain its positive membership status. The goal with this process is to give the Parliament more of its traditional power instead of ceding to the mandates that come from the EU governing body. Instead of wondering about how the membership bloc works on any given day, or who is in charge, Brexit makes it possible for the country to grab the steering wheel once again as they steer toward their fate.
4. Brexit would reduce the issues with forced immigration associated with the EU.
Under the laws of the European Union, member nations cannot prevent anyone from another state that is also a member from moving to live there. Britons had the right to move elsewhere to live and work, but so did everyone else. This structure created a pattern of immigration where roughly 800,000 people moved into the country to take advantage of the opportunities in the UK. Although China and India are the most signficiant sources of foreign workers in the country, separating from Europe allows Britain to maintain the pace of immigration that works best for their nation.
5. Brexit offers the possibility of new jobs.
There are estimates that 3 million jobs in Britain are connected to trade policies, procedures, or activities right now. Separating from Europe does create a risk where these employment opportunities could be lost. If trading increases after the separation, then there is a chance that employment growth in this sector could occur. When you factor in the expected drop in immigration rates since the UK no longer follows what the EU mandates, there could be more jobs for people to find in the months and years ahead.
6. Brexit could improve border security.
Iain Duncan Smith, who is the former Work and Pensions Secretary, suggests that the recent spike in terrorism experienced in Europe would continue to be a risk for Britain domestically because of the free movements that the EU allows. By taking advantage of Brexit’s structure, Smith suggests that the country could close their open borders to begin checking visitors and controlling the flow of people movement.
7. Brexit could help to stop issues with bureaucracy.
There are regulatory frameworks that the European Union implemented that do not always work well for Britain’s needs. That led most of the people who were for the referendum to feel like the membership block is a bureaucratic burden with far too many regulations to follow. By creating a separation between the two governing structures, it becomes possible for the local government to create a framework that is much more specific to the needs of everyone while still benefitting from the relationships formed during their time in the EU-28.
8. Brexit would create additional savings opportunities worth considering.
Consumers in Britain would no longer be asked to follow EU policies like the Common Agricultural Policy when Brexit occurs. More than £1 billion each year in subsidies goes to foreign farmers that help to make them competitive, so removal of this could lower prices at the supermarkets. There is also the Common Fisheries Policy that places regulations on the local industry that are believed to be keeping it from reaching its full potential.
When the changes in taxation and other regulations are calculated into the equation, the average family in Britain could save roughly £1,000 per year through less regulation and bureaucracy alone.
List of the Cons of Brexit
1. Brexit would eliminate protections of equal pay, maternity leave, and safe workplaces.
The idea that Britain would give up their push toward more equality for women seems low, even if a no-deal Brexit ends up happening. The European Union has spent much of their time bringing the country along, often reluctantly, to offer equality benefits to women and minority populations. Once the divorce happens, then there wouldn’t be the same protections against discrimination as there are now in the international courts.
We have seen what misogyny and populism can do to the United States and how it gains national acceptance. This issue could impact Britain more than anyone could ever predict. The various directives that could be reversed with Brexit include the following.
• Four weeks of guaranteed annual leave for workers.
• Regulated break times and working hours that prevent more than 48 hours of labor per week.
• Four months of paid parental leave, including additional protections for workers who are pregnant.
• Worker protections that apply when businesses change ownership.
2. Brexit would change the perspective of Britain being the “gateway” to Europe.
One of the reasons that Britain decided to avoid the eurozone was that the strength of its currency was higher. It continues to be the most valuable currency trading right now, with 1 GBP equally 1.31 USD and 1.14 Euro. Tax revenues will drop when the country separates itself from Europe because banks would move their headquarters back into the membership block.
Banks in the United States would no longer do business in the country when dealing with Europe either, which could impact their economy in unpredictable ways. There would no longer be a free passport across the continent for financial firms to enjoy.
3. Brexit could create a labor shortage.
Although a drop in the immigration rates would create more job availability for everyone who stayed in the country, Brexit does offer the potential to create labor shortages as well. Should this disadvantage occur, then it could hold back the potential for economic growth within the country. A decline in population would also likely reduce the demand for goods and services sold domestically. Skill shortages could hurt specific sectors of the economy as well.
4. Brexit could prevent the sharing of intelligence information.
Brexit might help Britain find ways to close some vulnerable borders, but it would also limit the information flowing from the European Union and NATO. There could even be a reduction in data coming from the United Nations after the separation takes place. Having access to passenger records, criminal data, and counter-terrorism teams helps to create a safer space for everyone living there. Although many of the bilateral relationships would continue, it will take more effort to get essential information items into the hands of the people who need them the most.
5. Brexit could reduce the amount of foreign direct investment that Britain receives.
By joining together in the European Union, the 28 members (before Brexit) form 25% of the global GDP. To give that figure some perspective, the United States currently holds a 15.2% share of the worldwide GDP. As Europe has continued to grow and form relationships, their common bonds have helped to leverage more of the world’s economy. The U.S. represented 40% of the global GDP in 1960.
With Britain separating itself from this membership bloc, the impact will be felt first in the amount of foreign direct investment that comes into the economy. In 2012, over £937 billion was received, with 50% of that related to EU activities. There is a real possibility that the Brexit divorce could cost the country over £300 billion in FDI almost immediately.
6. Brexit could still force Britain to be subject to EU laws and regulations.
Many who support the idea of Brexit look at Norway as a model for how Britain could have a relationship with the European Union. Although Norway does receive an exception of CAP, it is still subject to the laws and regulations of the membership bloc. That is the price that is paid for having access to the single market of the EU. Britain would likely be paying the same price. It could require the government to continue following the bureaucratic requirements without having the power to influence decisions after the separation completes itself.
7. Brexit could reverse the protections of food, health, and animal rights.
Most of the food standards that are in place in Britain right now originate in the European Union. That gives Britons comfort in knowing that many of the potentially harmful additives which are put into food products around the world are not in what they eat. That’s why an ingredient list from items made in Europe is much shorter than for a comparable one produced in the United States.
The European Union also banned animal testing (with some exemptions) across the entire membership bloc in 2012. This measure included animal welfare standards that could shift once Brexit begins its journey forward.
8. Brexit could force Brits living in EU member states to move back home.
Because of the border issues created by Brexit, there would be a separation between Britain and the remaining 27 members. More than 1.4 million people from the country have taken advantage of the travel and work agreements which exist in the European Union. Once this separation takes place, their status will become questionable instantly. They may be required to apply for a work visa, seek citizenship, or even move back home to avoid a potential conflict with their status. The UK would also lose the strength which comes when you are part of a diverse national and international culture.
9. Brexit would create more high-skill job openings that would remain unfilled.
When you compare the educational data of Britain with that of the remaining European Union members, then employers will see that EU workers tend to be better educated. About 32% of people living in the EU-27 (excluding Britain) have a university degree, compared to the 21% of citizens in the UK. People moving into Britain from Europe have contributed 34% more financially to the nation than they cost in required supports.
10. Brexit could cause Britain to lose the U.S. as a primary trading partner.
The United States and Europe have an on-again, off-again relationship with the creation of a free-trade zone between the two entities. They combined make up over 40% of the global GDP. If Britain separates itself from the EU, then it would lose the benefits of this trade arrangement. Although they could set up their own agreements, Britain wouldn’t have the same leverage to ask for benefits that help domestically as they would if they were part of the membership block.
11. Brexit would end access to the regulation cost guarantees that Europe provides.
Consumers benefit from the regulations that limit costs throughout Europe for specific products and services. Since 2015, consumers using cellular phones and data receive the same price for services in one of the EU-28 states as they do back at home. This structure prevents the unexpected costs from roaming. These costs might rise on the day that the separation occurs. There are additional travel cost concerns to consider as well, such as airline tickets, hotel bookings, and even the price of fuel.
12. Brexit could cause household energy bills to rise.
Although the average household would save about £1,000 from unnecessary regulations when Brexit is finalized, they’ll lose some of that savings by paying for higher heating and cooling prices. The energy costs could increase by £500 million or more in the years afterward because the UK would no longer be able to negotiate pricing on the same scale. There would be concerns with air pollutants and their impact on the environment. These costs could be enough to make some investors look for other options instead of staying in Britain with their money.
13. Brexit may shift the educational diversity found in the country today.
Students from the European Union are eligible to pay the same tuition and fees as Britons under the regulations of the EU. They can apply for the same financial supports when attending university in the UK as well. Once the separation is complete, then it would be up to the British government to determine how the costs for students from Europe would be regulated. It would also impact access to the Erasmus program that allows over 200,000 students and 20,000 staff to spend time abroad as part of their studies.
These pros and cons of Brexit show how complex and uncertain these current circumstances are. There are some suggestions that a second referendum might create a very different result if it were permitted. Europe seems to be taking a hard line on this separation, refusing to budge from the various deals that were negotiated in the past 24 months. The only thing we know for certain is that by April 2019, we will begin to have some answers to all of this uncertainty.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.