Current Affairs Digest: Brexit

Catch up on brexit articles you may have missed in May 2020, including the impact coronavirus might have on Brexit negotiations and the possibility of a trade deal between the UK and Switzerland.

Switzerland and the UK: global financial partners?

Considering the UK’s goal of making trade deals independent of the EU following Brexit, Matthew Lynn argues that the UK should partner with Switzerland to create a global financial centre. Lynn states that the combined worth of the two countries’ global exports in financial services is $105bn, compared to the US’s $68bn and Germany’s $16bn. The author clarifies that the US and China have lucrative domestic finance industries, but it is the global element of the UK and Switzerland’s financial hubs that make them attractive to international investors.

The article then discusses what the two countries have in common, namely that “both countries either have been, or will be, excluded from the EU’s single market in financial services”. Lynn argues that the blocking of Switzerland’s access to the single market in financial services last year was an attempt by the EU to force Switzerland to abide by its rules. He states this did not work. Consequently, the author believes that if the UK and Switzerland paired up, they could set their own standards, which—due to both countries’ positive global reputations—would be accepted by the international community.

The article argues that, out of the many deals that need to be agreed before the end of the transition period in December 2020, this deal would be “perhaps easier and potentially more valuable” to strike than any other.

Read the full article: Matthew Lynn, ‘Brexit Britain should look to create a partnership with Switzerland’, MoneyWeek, 10 May 2020.

The impact of coronavirus on Brexit negotiations

This article considers the current deadline for Brexit negotiations in the context of the global pandemic. The author, a former Labour Minister for Europe, argues that the idea of reaching a deal with the EU by December 2020 “has become positively surreal” due to the devastating impact coronavirus has and will continue to have on the UK economy. He also argues that the benefits the UK once saw for beneficial trade deals have “evaporated overnight”, as the whole world is affected by the crisis.

MacShane suggests that the UK does not have the ability to pursue negotiations currently. He argues that there is a lack of officials to work on plans for Brexit negotiations as they have been redeployed to deal with all aspects of the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, he says that the necessary preparations to start negotiations have not been done. He states that the UK has only published “vague texts”, which do not mention areas such as fishing or state aid.

The article then considers the current political will to pursue negotiations. MacShane outlines opinions from those seeking to maintain the current deadline of December 2020 and from those who would be open to an extension. He states that the final decision on whether to extend lies with the prime minister. The author believes most Conservatives would follow Boris Johnson’s lead, and that Labour would support an extension.

Read the full article: Denis MacShane, ‘To extend or take Britain into a Götterdämerung Brexit?’, Parliament Magazine, 24 April 2020.

The UK’s views on immigration

This blog post contains updated analysis from a study first carried out in 2018. The study combines surveys on UK citizens’ opinions towards immigration, carried out by organisations such as the British Election Study, the European Social Survey, and the British Social Attitudes survey, between 1982 and 2019. The responses were standardised by the author and plotted on a graph to show attitudes over time.

In particular, the author was interested in respondents who “responded negatively when faced with questions regarding their views on immigrants or immigration”. His results showed a steady decline in anti-immigrant sentiment since 2010. Using this, the author draws a few conclusions:

  1. Brexit (the campaign and the vote) did not cause any aggregate increase in negativity or hostility against immigrants or immigration generally.
  2. Similarly, there is little evidence to suggest leaving the EU caused any reduction in anti-immigrant feeling.
  3. Looking at only at the period between 2009 and 2019, whilst overall anti-immigrant sentiment declined, spikes of uplift could be seen during key political events such as the 2014 European elections, the 2016 referendum and the general elections in 2017 and 2019. However, the researcher states that these spikes did not last long and could be explained by “statistical noise”.

Overall, the author concludes that Brexit “has not much at all” to do with British opinions on immigration or immigrants.

Read the full article: Patrick English, ‘Has Brexit affected the way Britons think about immigrants?’, LSE British Politics and Policy blog, 11 May 2020.