4 ways Brexit will change European politics

4 ways Brexit will change European politics

From other exit votes to changes to the European Parliament’s coalitions, the ramifications of Brexit will be strongly felt beyond British borders.

On 23 June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. A short time after the results of the referendum were announced, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation. This will become effective in October, leaving his successor to negotiate the terms of the UK’s departure.  These actions have touched off a series of dependent events which will have significant, long-term implications for the continent as a whole. In response, Brussels is already planning a series of emergency meetings intended to calm tumultuous global financial and currency markets.  The impact of Britain’s departure from the EU, however, extends well beyond immediate market concerns.

1. EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU

There are an estimated 4.5 million people who will be directly impacted by the Brexit vote, including 3.3 million European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom and 1.2 million Britons living in the European Union.  The UK’s departure jeopardizes the legal immigration status of each group, but in what manner is not immediately clear and will be a critical element of the UK’s imminent exit negotiations with Brussels.

While the large number of expatriates on each side may drive London and Brussels to secure the immigration status of some of these individuals, Thursday’s vote has sent a clear signal to the British government that a chief concern of those who have voted for Brexit is high levels of immigration from the continent. The high turnout levels and clear mandate for Brexit will likely put inordinate pressure on the British government.

This pressure will likely force the government’s hand in deciding whether to send many of these 3.3 million EU citizens home. Those EU states with the highest number of expatriates currently living in the United Kingdom are Ireland and Poland. These forthcoming actions will roil both UK and EU labor markets, but the exact scale of the repatriation is yet unknown.

In the longer-term, any move to repatriate EU nationals back to their home countries would likely be stunted by rising labor demands. For the UK to maintain a positive GDP growth trajectory, this European labor supply will be essential.

2. Frexit?

Now that the UK has voted to exit the EU, despite having extracted policy and regulatory concessions earlier in the year, Brussels is concerned that this episode may be repeated by other member states interested in extracting similar concessions. There has been a rise in both populism and Euroscepticism across the continent which could pose significant challenges and lead to the further deterioration of the Union.

These growing sentiments are especially popular in France where the far right Eurosceptic National Front party has surged in the polls ahead of the 2017 French presidential elections.  One party member has already suggested holding a national referendum in France similar to the Brexit vote, a call which will be repeated now that the UK has voted to leave.

Should such a vote come, it is possible France would elect to leave the EU as well.  A recent poll by the Pew Research Center illustrates that French opinions of the EU are even worse than those of the British. Given the growing popularity of French Euroscepticism coupled with Britain’s successful exit referendum, a call for Frexit may be a rallying cry in the lead-up to the 2017 presidential elections.

3. Scottish National Party

Another national departure may come in the form of a second referendum for Scottish secession.  Scottish unionists have already openly questioned their ability to vote “no” on a subsequent succession attempt.

When initially considered, the possibility of Scotland losing EU membership following a break with London provided significant motivation to remain in the United Kingdom. With that motivation now obsolete, a subsequent vote may very well lead to Scottish sovereignty and a further turmoil in London.

4. Changing Demographics in the European Parliament

The absence of the British delegation to the European Parliament will alter existing coalitions and impact future EU policy. The existing EP coalition to suffer the greatest loss of members will be the Eurosceptic MEPs.

The weakening of their relative position within the EP means that future policy initiatives will likely be more favorable to a tighter economic, political, and social integration. The majority in support of joint macro-economic policies will grow. The loss of the British MEP Eurosceptics will also likely increase support for such policy changes as increased harmonization of tax law and perhaps even a European minimum wage.

Categories: Europe

About Author

Jon Lang

Mr. Lang is a Principal at Key Global Advisory, a geo-political and economic risk consultancy. His prior professional experience ranges from strategy consulting at Deloitte to national US policy development for the White House. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in European Political Economics from the London School of Economics, and is currently completing a global executive MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.