Brexit has gotten utterly messy. With the British Parliament voting against Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit deal and Labour pushing a vote of confidence, which they lost, and the chances of another referendum looming over Britain, there is nothing certain over Brexit, except that it is not going to be a clean exit. The countdown to Brexit Day March 29 is now going by days and not weeks, months or years. That’s how close it is and Britain has absolutely no idea of whether it is going to meet this deadline with a deal from the EU or without a deal. But deal or no deal, Brexit will hit Britain badly.
It is impossible at this moment to quantify the loss, but a loss it is going to be. A report by the British government presented late last year, predicts that the country’s economy will take a beating and wages will drop whatever deal is arrived at. It is only that in some scenarios, the blow would be softer and that is what the UK government has been hoping to achieve with the deal it had worked out, and that the House of Commons so convincingly rejected. Even with a deal, business in Britain will take a hit. A survey by the International Monetary Fund has determined that the UK economy will be smaller by 5 per cent. If there is no deal, it could lead to chaos, stoppage of the movement of goods across the border, and jeopardising employment in the country.
With time running out – the British Prime Minister has to make a statement in Parliament on Monday – May after surviving the no-confidence motion, reached out to politicians from other parties for talks on a deal, hoping to gain the confidence of the other parties, before the new deal is tabled in parliament. But a consensus could still elude Britain, as the ruling Conservatives are divided on the deal, Labour wants an assurance that no-deal is not being considered, and May is unlikely to give in on a few pet issues. Unless May opens up and demonstrates flexibility, and her cabinet colleagues have advocated this, arriving at a consensus will not be possible.
Should the British parliament again reject the new deal that will be tabled soon, the possibility of a second referendum arises, which could get Brexit postponed, but that is something that the European Union that had been urging for a quick divorce would not be willing to readily accept as it would require the agreement of the member states. But, what if Britain again opts to leave? While Brexit may have sounded like a good thing during the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union, the yes vote drew immediate consternation with voters ruing having voted to exit the union, and Britain now appears to have descended into political chaos that emerging from which will only leave it further bruised.
India too needs to consider the post-Brexit scenario. It depends quite heavily on the UK to do business with the European Union. This could be due to historical reasons, but once the UK exits the Union, India will have to find another route to undertake its business deals with the EU countries. Not that there isn’t a substantial business between India and the EU, but it is the UK that got a major share of the Indian business pie, and that could be set to change. Besides, should there be no deal, the rupee that has experienced a free fall in the past year, could depreciate even further against the British pound.
With a large number of Goans in Britain on Portuguese citizenship, the Brexit deal is of crucial interest here as it assures that EU citizens living in the UK, will retain their residency and social security rights after the exit, and that citizens who take up residency in another EU country during the transition period (including the UK) will be allowed to stay in that country after the transition. If there is no deal, these assurances will not be legally tenable. A deal is as much of interest for Goa as it is for Britain.