Will Brexit Matter: A Probe into Its Reasons, Influences and Tendencies
Brexit will not only tear British society and politics apart, and deal an unprecedented
In a referendum held on June 23, 51.9 percent of the UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. Although surprising, the result is understandable. Brexit is the result of a number of complicated historical and other factors, the United Kingdom’s sense of exceptionalism. After the referendum, the future of the United Kingdom’s domestic politics, UK-EU relations and the European Union itself are uncertain. But no matter how things go, the referendum result is a turning point in the history of European integration and even international politics. The influence of Brexit will extend far beyond the United Kingdom and the European Union as it will have an impact on the transformation of the international structure.
The United Kingdom’s Sense of Exceptionalism and the Crises in the European Union
Although virtually all analyses before the referendum agreed that the UK citizens would consider the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the European Union and conclude the best decision would be to remain a member, the outcome has shown that besides rational considerations, there were deep-rooted historical and cultural factors and the insecurity of people as a result of the multiple crises the European Union is struggling to cope with that outweighed the argument that people in the United Kingdom would be better off if the country remained a member
of the European Union.
The United Kingdom’s sense of exceptionalism
Separated from continental Europe, the United Kingdom has developed a sense of exceptionalism and its citizens are more inclined to doubt the benefits of a united Europe. This sense of exceptionalism not only originated from the “island country” mentality of the as the United Kingdom, but also from its historical Empire, and its “outsider” identity developed from 1815 to 1973,1 which is mainly reflected in the liberalism tradition in its economic policy, the sovereignty-first concept resulting from its parliamentary democracy, and freedom of action as an independent global player.2 This notion of exceptionalism has existed throughout the United Kingdom’s historical relationship with the European integration process. When Winston Churchill opposed the United Kingdom’s inclusion in a “federal” Europe, he identified the United Kingdom as being separate from Europe, rather than regarding the United Kingdom as part of Europe. This sentiment persisted in the debate over whether the United Kingdom should join the European Community (EC) in 1971 and was evident in the speech by the then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Bruges in 1988, as well as in the debate leading up to the referendum. In essence, the debate has been an ongoing one over whether the United Kingdom is part of Europe or exceptional.
In the parliamentary great debate on membership of the European Community, opponents to the United Kingdom joining put forward three main arguments. First, they were opposed to the unnaturally expensive agricultural products that would ensue and the huge related burden the United Kingdom would have to bear due to the protective agricultural
policy of the European Community. They strongly advocated the liberalist economic tradition, and safeguarding Britain’s right to buy farm products worldwide. Second, they wanted to protect the unique role of the United Kingdom and guarantee it would remain free from the constraints of the European Community. For the European skeptics, the European Community membership did not entail broadened global horizons for the United Kingdom, rather it would mean a narrowing of them. The euroskeptics argued that rather than joining the European Community and being bound by it, the United Kingdom should independently cultivate its relations with developing countries. Third, they argued joining the European Community posed risks to the United Kingdom’s self-governance, and might even damage its sovereignty. The typical objection was that: “A time will come soon, when whatever decision is made by Parliament in a number of spheres, it will be necessary for that decision to be ratified by a Council of Ministers or by a European Commission or by the European Parliament... We are able to decide this issue knowing that our own decision is unaffected by the will or the decision of any body outside.”3
The core of Thatcher’s Bruges speech highlighted the uniqueness of the United Kingdom in Europe, consistent with the major viewpoints of the Parliamentary great debate in 1971. In terms of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Europe, she stressed the heritage and connection of the British and European cultures, but highlighted her country’s uniqueness. She pointed out that: “Over the centuries we have fought to prevent Europe from falling under the dominance of a single power,” which emphasized the balancing role it had played as an “outsider.” When it came to the fundamental principles of European integration, she said that “willing and active cooperation between independent sovereign states is the best way to build a successful European Community...working more closely together does not require power to be centralized in Brussels or decisions
to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy;” “A state-controlled economy is a recipe for low growth;” “Europe should not be protectionist.”4 She stressed three major principles: principle of intergovernmental cooperation among sovereign states, principle of being practical, and principle of economic liberalism. She opposed a federalized Europe.
Nor has the United Kingdom’s sense of exceptionalism faded with the “Europeanizing” process. Instead, its policy orientation toward the EU has been the “outsider as insider.”5 As a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom has promoted its idea of a free market economic policy, led the construction of a single market, and implemented a “selective” exit in policy areas closely related to sovereignty, such as monetary policy
and the Schengen visa system. After the outbreak of its debt crisis, the eurozone shifted more power to Brussels in order to strengthen economic governance. As a result, doubts about the European Union originating from people’s sense of exceptionalism in the United Kingdom rose sharply. The Eu-related topics dominated domestic politics in the United Kingdom, and became the most divisive issue resulting in the referendum becoming part of the political agenda. Those who stood for leave actively advocated regaining control of the United Kingdom from Brussels, especially the power to control the United Kingdom’s borders and reduce immigration. They also claimed that a United Kingdom independent of the European Union would have broader space to develop economic and trade ties with emerging countries.
The European Union’s legitimacy crisis
Since joining the European Community in 1973, despite the fact that the United Kingdom has always been an “exception” in European integration, its senior officials never discussed the option of leaving for long until the referendum was offered as a way to appease the anti-eu wing of the ruling Conservative Party. In 2010, the British government discussed the possibility of Brexit in a public debate at the highest level for the first time. The European exit debate and the accompanying questioning of the European Union’s legitimacy eventually led to the referendum result going in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.
In dealing with the debt crisis, the EU institutions gained unprecedented power of intervention in the economic policies of the EU member states, and they have become increasingly involved in the decision-making of member states. The increasing asymmetry between the democratic processes in the EU member states and the power and functions of the EU institutions and the worsening deficit in the European Union’s democratic legitimacy were also important factors triggering Brexit. For example, after the plan to strengthen the economic governance of the European Union entered into force, the European Commission obtained
monitoring and evaluation functions in policy areas that traditionally were the preserve of the governments of its member states, and also the power to impose sanctions against countries that violated its rules; the European Semester system promoted closer coordination between the fiscal policies of member states, granting the European Commission rights to recommendation and supervision of the budget of the EU members. The above transfer of power and functions are in conflict with the United Kingdom’s parliamentary democracy and its well-established sense of “exceptionalism.” This is also why Prime Minister David Cameron stressed in a 2013 speech about the UK-EU relationship that: “It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.”6 He pointed out that the debt crisis was the best opportunity to reform the UK-EU relationship, saying: “We should use that opportunity to reshape Britain’s membership of the EU in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation. I think that means less Europe not more Europe; less cost, less bureaucracy and less regulation.”7 The poor responses of the European Union to its multiple crises, including the legitimacy crisis, were also a cause for Brexit. The legitimacy of the European Union comes more from its functional role, that is, people think it is the most appropriate institution to meet people’s needs and that it can provide effective service and added value. Functional legitimacy has been the pillar of the “inclusive consensus” of the European Union for a long time.8 But in recent years, the poor responses of the European Union to its debt crisis and refugee crisis have seriously damaged the basis for its functional legitimacy. According to a recent Pew poll, it is on the economic and refugee issues that public opinion shows the greatest opposition to the policies of the European Union. On
the question of refugees, 98 percent of Greeks, 88 percent of Swedes and 77 percent of Italians have indicated that they do not agree with the official approach of the European Union. Even in the Netherlands, one of the biggest supporters of the European Union, only 31 percent of citizens are now in favor of the European Union. On economic issues, only 6 percent of Greeks, 22 percent of Italians, and 27 percent of the French have expressed their support for the European Union’s approaches to economic problems. These figures suggest that the public believe that the European Union has failed in its responses to issues relating to their immediate interests.9 The sharp decline of public support in the United Kingdom for continued membership of the European Union is in keeping with the deterioration in the European Union’s refugee and migrant crisis. From June to October 2015, the UK citizens’ support for staying in the European Union dropped from 61 percent to 52 percent, highlighting the European Union’s legitimacy crisis.
Social differentiation in globalization and European integration
Social inequality and social differentiation in the process of globalization and European integration were also factors in the referendum in favor of Brexit. While globalization and integration have helped to improve overall economic and social development levels, the free flow of trade, labor and capital has also exacerbated economic and social injustice. The fruits of globalization are not evenly distributed among different classes. Technological innovation and financial capital flows tend to benefit the elites as well as market-adapted younger people. But older people who rely on social redistribution stand to lose a lot. This requires the role of the state in social distribution be strengthened to achieve social justice. But the ability of modern states to intervene in social distribution has declined.10 Cracks between economy and nationalism have contributed
to the rise of anti-elitist, anti-establishment extremist political parties, who advocate populism, and call on people to return to the situation of isolated nation states.
The United Kingdom also faces serious social differentiation. The wealth gap between its richest 20 percent and the poorest 20 percent is among the worst in the European Union.11 And, in order to deal with the debt crisis, the Cameron government introduced a series of policy initiatives, including cuts to social welfare and tax policy adjustments, which added to social inequality. As the widening of the wealth gap was even faster than that in the 1980s, it has accelerated “inequality.” According to research by British economists, by 2015, the average incomes of the poorest families declined by 12 percent, while that of the wealthiest by only by 3 percent.12 The country’s social differentiation has provided space for extremist political parties to mobilize greater support. In the 2014 European Parliament election, the United Kingdom Independence Party which called for leaving the European Union gained more than 20 percent of the votes. In the referendum, euroskeptics and those who stood for Brexit simply took advantage of the insecurity people felt, promising to control borders, reduce immigration, and protect job opportunities for the UK citizens so as to gain their support.
The distribution of votes for “leave” and votes for “remain” has clearly reflected economic and social differentiation against the backdrop of integration. More young voters voted remain, while older voters aged above 55 chose to leave. Scotland and the London area witnessed more votes for remain. More educated and professional people chose to remain. Those who did not have passports and with low incomes tended to choose leave. Leave supporters were inclined to think that the UK economy was at a standstill, and that the entrance of immigrants had “robbed” people of their jobs.
Multiple Influences of Brexit
Brexit is a major event with historic significance in international politics, which will exert multiple influences on the United Kingdom, the European Union as well as the international political landscape. In the short term, Brexit has triggered British domestic political changes, led to strong volatility in international financial markets, and increased the uncertainty of global economic recovery. However, the shock of Brexit will be long-term, particularly for the development of the EU’S integration in the future as well as the trend of the international political pattern. These impacts will be more evident with the passage of time.
British government in dilemma facing political and social splits
The referendum result will have the most direct impact on the United Kingdom. While adding to its economic uncertainties for a period to come, it will also increase the fragmentation of domestic politics. The economic, social and regional divisions reflected in the referendum need to be addressed in the long run, which may even affect the unity of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state.
The UK economy will face uncertainties for a long time. In addition to the financial market turbulence induced by short-term market risk aversion, depreciation of the pound and a drop in investor confidence caused by the political crisis, the UK economy will face long-term uncertainties. In the next two to three years, the main reason for the uncertainties facing the UK economy will be the unclear arrangements of the UK-EU relationship. The UK economy is deeply integrated with the single market. The EU market accounts for 40 percent of the United Kingdom’s services exports. In 2014, the other 27 EU members accounted for 50 percent of the foreign direct investment in the United Kingdom, and the city of London has been the main beneficiary of the EU single market in financial services.13 The revised
relationship after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union will affect not only trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union, but also the flow of FDI. Lack of investor confidence and a large number of withdrawals will weaken the pound and raise interest rates, which would pose the risk of economic recession. Before the referendum, the International Monetary Fund had warned that Brexit would trigger an economic recession for the United Kingdom. The latest Economist report says the United kingdom’s economic recovery will stop, and the growth forecast for 2017 has been lowered from 1.8 percent to -1 percent.14
Trigger political fragmentation of British political parties. After the referendum, the internal conflicts in the mainstream political parties have intensified, and the extreme right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party has been the biggest beneficiary. Cameron adopted a tougher stance toward the European Union after he took office. In 2010, to deliver his campaign promise, he promoted the “Referendum Lock” legislation, requiring that any transfer of important power or functions to the European Union should go through a British referendum. Then, in order to bridge the differences in his party and fight against the Independence Party, Cameron was critical of the European Union in an attempt to appease the EU skeptics in his party. He even used to say that “Britain would do fine outside the EU,” which made his words predicting dreadful consequences if Britain left the European Union sound hollow.15 Therefore, to a certain extent, the victory of the eurosceptics was a victory for the Independence Party. And rather than uniting the Conservative Party it has caused an even more serious split. The referendum also further deteriorated the image of the Labor Party. In recent years, the Labor Party has been experiencing a growing identity crisis and different factions have been competing for power within the party, this has distanced the party from the people, and the referendum has further widened
their internal divide. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party, was accused of poorly mobilizing support for remain. Once the result came out, 12 Shadow Cabinet Ministers announced their resignation, leaving the party paralyzed. The division and paralysis of the Labor Party will further alienate voters, offering more space for the development of extreme and nationalist parties.
With the social rifts widening, risks of national secession are on the rise. The referendum has unveiled the regional conflicts within Britain, and highlighted conflicts between social classes and different regions. There were even suggestions that the referendum was a showdown between the elites and grassroots. Although the UK government has promised to take into consideration the concerns of remain supporters in future negotiations, there cannot be a perfect outcome for everyone, and the EU issue will continue to test the unity and solidarity of the United Kingdom. Domestic regional separatist issues will again be on the political agenda, and national unity is going to face challenges. In the referendum, Scotland witnessed overwhelming support for remain. Immediately after the result came out, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that it was highly likely the Scottish government would call for a second referendum on full independence, which should be held before the United Kingdom formally leaves the European Union.16 On June 28, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion on the implications of the EU referendum for Scotland, with a view to seeking a way for it to remain a member of the European Union. If this proves futile, Scotland is bound to hold a second referendum on independence. As Northern Ireland also supported remain in the referendum and the Northern Ireland peace process framework has changed because of Brexit, the Northern Ireland issue is also likely to revive. To address the class and generational conflicts exposed in the referendum will also be a difficult task for the new government. Some referred to the referendum as “the young generation’s fate determined by the old generation,” and questioned
the legitimacy of the referendum. For future negotiations, the British government is in a dilemma how to satisfy the young generation’s need for a big single market with the free movement of people, while appeasing the old generation’s fear of immigrants.
Directional choices for European integration
Brexit is a historic event in the process of European integration, which will exert a far-reaching influence on the future of European integration. It has seriously weakened the European Union’s hard and soft power, triggered an increase in skepticism about the European Union, changed the intraeu balance, and intensified the dispute over the direction of the European Union’s development. In the future, if the European Union fails to find an effective path to resolve its legitimacy crisis, seek further integration in a practical way, then its development will fundamentally lose momentum.
Brexit will seriously weaken the Europan Union’s international power and influence. Although the United Kingdom is not a founding member of the European Union, nor has it always been close to the Union, it has played an essential role as one of the three most influential powers in the Union. Now it will be the first country to leave the European Union. In addition to proving that integration is not irreversible, it has also exposed the deeprooted problems in the European Union’s integration model, aggravated the European Union’s image that it is plagued by “multiple crises,” and severely eroded its soft power. Accounting for 15 percent of the European Union’s economic aggregate and 12.5 percent of its population, the United Kingdom is one of the three most influential countries in the European Union, the second largest contributor to the European Union’s budget, and an important driving force of the single market, with the largest amount of investment stock in the European Union. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a NATO member that has a special relationship with the United States, the United Kingdom has also been major promoter of the European Union’s security and defence policies. So along with the great significance it will have on the European Union’s security approach
and global influence, the United Kingdom’s leaving will directly harm the European Union’s soft power.
Thus the number of euroskeptics and extremist forces within the European Union will further increase. Extremist political parties challenge the basic European consensus and widely doubt Europe. They advocate closing national borders, controling the number of immigrants, trade protectionism, direct democracy, and turning Europe to the order of sovereign states. The victory of Brexit supporters has encouraged the euroskeptics and extremist forces within the European Union. Several hours after the announcement of the UK’S referendum result, France’s National Front, the Netherlands’ Liberal Party, Germany’s Alternative for Germany, Italy’s Northern League, and Austria’s Liberal Party have all called for similar referendums in their countries. Extreme left-wing or right-wing parties currently hold 1,329 Parliament seats in 25 members of the European Union, and eight of its members are ruled by them. Referendums are viewed as a good way to force the mainstream political parties to adopt their political position.17
Power imbalances within the European Union will deteriorate. The United Kingdom has always been an important balancer within the EU. It has balanced the protectionist tendencies of Southern European countries represented by France, and the concerns of other member states over the increasingly “dominant” role of Germany. The United Kingdom has also promoted the European Union’s security and defence policies together with France. After the United Kingdom leaves, the influence of Germany will further increase, and concerns over its dominance will increase. After the United Kingdom’s referendum, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-walter Steinmeier respectively convened meetings for major country coordination in Berlin, which provoked dissatisfaction among the other member states. Moreover, a European Union without the United Kingdom will see weakened the advocacy for economic liberalism, and it
remains to be seen whether the United Kingdom will become increasingly conservative.
The debates over the future direction of the European Union will become more intense, and it is of vital significance whether people can achieve consensus. In recent years, the European Union has suffered continued crises, which have exposed its systemic defects. Its debt crisis has pushed the European Union to enhance its supranational nature in an “intergovernmental” way, and the refugee crisis has highlighted the limitations of the Schengen system. At present, while the European Union hopes to deal with the crises through further integration, this lacks public support. Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says that “In response to a Brexit, we can’t simply demand further integration.”18
Member states have not reached consensus on the path of integration. France advocates that eurozone countries move in the direction of further federalization, Germany seems to be in favor of intergovernmentalist means, while Central and Eastern European countries tend to take back powers from the European Union. At present, the biggest consensus within the European Union is that it needs reform, though the direction for reform is not clear.
Influence on the international landscape
Compared to the negative impact on the United Kingdom’s domestic politics and the European Union, the influence of Brexit on the international landscape will take longer to manifest itself. Its effects will be decided by a series of factors, especially the development of the United Kingdom’s domestic politics, the European Union’s integration choices, as well as how the UK-EU relationship proceeds. But in any case, based on the special UKUS relationship, the European Union’s special international role, as well as the United Kingdom’s special role in the European Union, Brexit will inevitably exert structural influence.
Breixt will trigger adjustments in the United States’ policies toward
the United Kingdom and the European Union. The United Kingdom is the most determined and influential member of the European Union with regard the United States. In many instances, especially with regard free trade and security, the United Kingdom has made efforts to bring the stance of the European Union close to that of the United States. The United Kingdom’s “outsider as insider” role in the European Union has been a major consideration for various United States administrations to promote British involvement in the integration. “Having the United Kingdom in the European Union gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union and is part of the cornerstone of institutions built after World War II that has made the world safer and more prosperous.”19 After Brexit, Britain will lose all its decision-making powers in the EU affairs, including free trade agreements, security cooperation, and expansion policy, and this will change the United States’ recognition of the European Union’s international status. In 1962, former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson commented on the United Kingdom remaining outside the European Community. He said: “The attempt to play a separate power role apart from Europe, a role based on a ‘special relationship’ with the US and on being the head of a ‘commonwealth’ which has no political structure, unity, or strength—this role is about played out.”20 The United Kingdom after Brexit has become far less significant strategically for the United States, and the latter will shift the priority of its EU policy to Germany. The future of transatlantic relations will be mainly determined by how the Germany-led EU will
As the UK after Brexit becomes less significant strategically for the US, the future of transatlantic relations will be mainly determined by how the Germany-led EU will develop.
develop. In the future, two questions will test the direction of the transatlantic relationship: First, will the European Union without Britain continue to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States? Second, can France and Germany promote European security cooperation and make it develop as the United States wishes?
Easing of Eu-russia relations could accelerate. Since the Ukraine crisis, relations between the EU and Russia have been deadlocked, in a process of sanctions and counter sanctions. The United Kingdom has always been the toughest opponent of Russia in the European Union, advocating following the lead of the United States and increasing sanctions against Russia. Although the European Union is not likely to immediately remove sanctions against Russia after Brexit, the forces moderate to Russia will significantly increase in the European Union, generally speaking. At present, there are opportunities for Eu-russia relations to be eased. Earlier, the French Foreign Minister had mentioned the need to re-discuss sanctions against Russia within the European Union, and automatic extension is not satisfactory. Germany’s position has also eased. It no longer insists on full implementation of the Minsk Agreement as a prerequisite for the lifting of sanctions, believing that with the advancing of the peace process, sanctions should be phased out.
Reform of the European Union and its foreign policy will also have an impact on the international landscape. As a pole in a multi-polar international structure, the EU advocates multilateralism. It is a force to be reckoned with in today’s international structure, as it has played an important regulatory role in a range of areas, such as international trade, climate change, and development aid. Brexit has weakened the EU by seriously limiting its diplomatic means and ability. Moreover, the next two years will be a highly uncertain transition period for the United Kingdom and the European Union, during which Brexit negotiations and reforms on both sides will occupy considerable diplomatic resources of the European Union, further restricting its external actions. In the future, the level of unity and openness of the European Union will act on its international
behavior and affect international trends.
Future Arrangement and Trend of UK-EU Relations
Without a clear timetable for Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom and the European Union will compete around the negotiation process, and their relationship will face uncertainties for a long time. Despite the European Union pressure on the United Kingdom for early negotiations, according to the provisions of Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, the initiative to start the negotiations is in the hands of the member state which wishes to leave. After the referendum result came out, David Cameron announced his resignation as the UK prime minister, and said that negotiations with the European Union will be held by the new government. However, no consensus has been reached within the ruling Conservative Party. Theresa May said that the negotiations would not be formally started this year. After the launch of formal negotiations, the period will last two years according to the Treaty. If no agreement can be reached during the two-year term, then Britain will leave automatically, unless the European Council and Britain both agree to extend this period. In addition, the competition between the two sides will focus on the negotiation procedures. The United Kingdom wants to bind the Brexit negotiations to negotiations concerning the framework of future UK-EU relations, but this has been rejected by the European Union. The European Union wants to conduct Brexit negotiations first, and then discuss the framework for future relations with the United Kingdom as a whole. This would avoid infinite extensions to the negotiations and prevent the United Kingdom from taking advantage of its membership of the European Union to intervene in the EU decision-making.
Due to the highly different positions of the member states, the European Union needs to balance the power of different forces. As the top leading country in the European Union and a country sharing the same position with the United Kingdom in economic policies, Germany has two major goals for the UK-EU relationship: first, to avoid anti-eu sentiment
growing and safeguarding the fruits of integration; and second, to continue to maintain close economic and trade ties between the two sides in the framework of future relations. That also explains why Merkel has called for Germany’s EU partners not to be driven by emotions and rather maintain a close partnership with the United Kingdom, while insisting that if the United Kingdom wants to enjoy access to the European single market as before, it must accept the free movement of labor. France and Italy share a common stance. Despite their close economic and trade ties with the United Kingdom, domestic doubts about the European Union in the two countries and rise of extreme rightists have led to their different ideas and tough stance on economic policies. They do not accept more exceptions being granted to the United Kingdom. Spain has a large amount of direct investment in the United Kingdom, and there is close cooperation between them in the financial sector. So Spain hopes to maintain close integration with the United Kingdom, and favors the “Norway Model” for the United Kingdom’s relations with the European Union. But despite their close links it is hard for Spain to support the United Kingdom in issues concerning the principles of the EU.21
Therefore, the future arrangement of the UK-EU relationship depends on negotiations and compromises between the EU’S powerful members. Generally speaking, the options for future UK-EU relations include the “Switzerland Model,” “Norway Model” and the “Canada Model.” The “Switzerland Model” means having a single market by signing a loose bilateral agreement with the European Union but without accepting other aspects of integration, especially the free movement of labor. At the same time, this would help reduce the United Kingdom’s contributions to the EU budget. So this is the most favorable option to the Brexiters in the United Kingdom. However, the “Switzerland Model” is the least likely because it is contrary to the claims of most EU members. The “Norway model” would
enable the United Kingdom to share the single market, but it would not be able to vote concerning the EU rules. Meanwhile, it would also need to shoulder its contributions to the EU budget and accept the free movement of labor. This is a model with less negative impacts on the European Union and is thus the one most acceptable to the European Union, but the United Kingdom can offer few concessions for the European Union. The “Canada Model” may be an alternative if the two sides cannot reach a consensus on key issues of principle. It will be a lose-lose option for both sides: despite the long negotiation period, such issues as non-tariff barriers, financial services and government procurement will not be fully integrated into the agreement.
The Impact of Brexit on China-uk Relations
As a major event affecting international politics, Brexit will also have an impact on China. Right after the referendum result was known, China’s financial market fell into turmoil, and the downward pressure of the Chinese currency increased. With close ties with both the European Union and the United Kingdom, China will be significantly affected by Brexit.
Brexit may be a double-edged sword for China-uk relations. A United Kingdom outside the European Union will inevitably pay more attention to emerging countries represented by China. In its economic and trade cooperation with China, the United Kingdom is also likely to adopt more innovative policy approaches in such issues as China’s market economy status as well as future bilateral free trade agreements, given the fact that it has shaken off the restrictions of the EU rules. However, China cannot overlook the possibility of political change in the United Kingdom: it may develop toward isolationism and conservatism, which will lead to significant decline in its global status. Currently, populist forces in Britain are on the rise, which may lead to the emergence of protectionism and isolationism, affecting the heralded “golden age” of China-uk relations. In addition, it also needs to be considered that a United Kingdom outside the European Union may rely more on the United States, and fail to be independent on issues concerning
China’s core concerns, which would be a big test for China-uk relations.
With regard to the European Union which lacks a clear development direction, China has reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic. The positive effects of Brexit can be observed from the two aspects: First, Brexit may force the EU to carry out much needed reform and find a different integration path that all parties are comfortable with. It may also prompt it to regain the support of the people by adopting more practical and peopleoriented approaches to integration. Second, the risk of economic recession and political instability in the United Kingdom after Brexit may to some extent prove the EU’S added value, making people in Europe more aware of its value. Following the United Kingdom’s referendum, the Spainish mainstream People’s Party received more support than previously, and the public support in Denmark for the EU increased rather than decreased. These facts seem to prove the above statement, but it remains to be seen whether this effect can be sustained.
As China’s comprehensive strategic partner, the European Union shares common interests with China in a wide range of areas of global governance, including reform of the international financial system, global development cooperation and climate change. Brexit has left the European Union, which is already plagued with multiple crises, in a difficult situation: it has to confront serious differentiation of interests, weak driving force of Germany and France, and the directional choice. Regardless of what direction the European Union will choose, China-eu relations will inevitably be affected. A European Union that continues to play its independent and unique role in the international arena is in the best interests of China. However, a loose, closed European Union that is dependent on the United States will bring uncertainties to the relationship between the EU and China.
Vote Leave: Britain's choice will cause repercussions on domestic, regional as well as global levels.