Brexit process still defined by chronic uncertainty, new academic report reveals

PUBLISHED: 00:01 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:25 12 April 2018

Pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in Parliament Square

Pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in Parliament Square

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The Brexit process is still characterised by significant political and economic uncertainty one year after the UK triggered Article 50, a new report by academic group The UK in a Changing Europe says.

It finds that a lack of clear direction is affecting the ability to plan for the future in several policy sectors, including immigration, economics, Northern Ireland, aviation and agriculture.

And it also shows demographic changes, including rising education and ethnic diversity, will pull public opinion in a clear pro-Remain direction within the next few years.

Prof Anand Menon, director The UK in a Changing Europe, said: "When Theresa May triggered Article 50 she said she’d provide citizens and businesses with ‘as much certainty as possible, as early as possible’. One year on, our report shows she has failed to do this.

“Uncertainty reigns. This is having negative consequences for business and key sectors including agriculture, fisheries, aviation, the environment, higher education, the health service and financial services.

“In politics, the lack of an overall Conservative majority has created political instability and unpredictability. In Northern Ireland Brexit is destabilising the region and in Britain tensions between Westminster and the devolveds have been heightened.”

The report, 'Article 50 One Year On' shows that GDP growth in the UK was, on average, 0.6% higher than the other G7 members before the referendum, while in 2017 it was 0.9% lower

Taking countries that matched UK growth prior to the referendum, academics found that by the third quarter of 2017 UK GDP was approximately 1.3% lower than it would have been if the UK had not voted for Brexit.

In Northern Ireland the report says that "are fears that the problems facing the island of Ireland are either misunderstood by London or wilfully ignored.

"The UK has not managed to provide the necessary detail to reconcile the need to avoid a hard border and leaving the single market and customs union."

In aviation, it says that the stakes in the negotiations are high, with the most likely scenario being that market access will be lost by both sides and UK industry and consumers will be hit especially hard.

In agriculture it says even a relatively ‘soft’ Brexit would lead to price changes for small producers. Cereal and dairy farms will be relatively unaffected by post-Brexit changes to prices, but many beef and sheep farms will be more vulnerable.

And legally, the report says that "while the Withdrawal Bill symbolises the fact that the UK is ‘taking back control,’ transition means the UK will remained bound by its EU obligations while lacking voting rights".

Additionally it finds that demographic changes are pulling public opinion in a pro-European direction. It says: "By 2021, the electorate will be 52:48 Remain and by 2026 it will be 54:46 Remain as a result of rising education, rising ethnic diversity and generational change."

On immigration it says that there is "no clear vision of immigration policy after Brexit, let alone any concrete policy decisions".

The report is being released on the day of The UK in a Changing Europe’s conference 'Article 50: One Year On', which features politicians, civil servants, economists, journalists and academics including MP Ali McGovern, Allie Renison of the Institute of Directors, Shanker Singham from the Institute of Economic Affairs, Stephanie Flanders of Bloomberg Economics, Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News and Professor Rob Ford.

The UK in a Changing Europe is based at King's College London. The report's authors include John Curtice, Catherine Barnard, Jonathan Portes, Rob Ford and Anand Menon.

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