Brexit’s Impact Will Be Negative for UK-Greek Relations, LSE Prof. Says

January 31, 2020

ATHENS – “This isn’t really BREXIT, it’s the start of BREXIT,” London School of Economics Professor Kevin Featherstone said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) released on Friday.

“It’s the negotiations that are about to begin that will deliver the proper meaning of BREXIT,” he added.

The full interview follows:

The UK will leave the EU at midnight on 31 January. What is its significance for the UK and what are the immediate implications on EU-UK and Greek-British relations? Do you think that it is a win win agreement?

– This isn’t really BREXIT, it’s the start of BREXIT. Until, at least, the end of the year, the UK will continue to be governed by existing EU rules and legislation – though, it won’t be a legal member of the EU. It’s the negotiations that are about to begin that will deliver the proper meaning of BREXIT: that is, the post-membership relationship. So, the BREXIT impact will come in stages and not always be transparent. Overwhelmingly, economists agree that the economic impact – until 2030 at least – will be negative, either moderately or severely. But, it won’t be easy for voters in the UK to understand the causal impact of BREXIT, separate from other international events – anything from a wider downturn in the international economy or the changing nature of demand for cars. The debate will become a ‘counter-factual’ – what if the UK had remained an EU member? – and the evidence will be quite technical to understand. For UK-Greek relations – as for our relations with any EU country – the economic impact will be negative. Two countries cannot diverge in market rules or put up barriers and still have the same trading relationship. It can’t be a win-win outcome in economic terms. No-one gets a divorce because they want to be closer together.

The UK will remain in the single market and customs union, but none of the decision-making bodies, until the end of 2020. Do you thing that there is enough time for the EU and UK to negotiate a deep and meaningful relationship?

– No. The only realistic scenario is that a very rudimentary free trade agreement for goods is signed and, possibly, also a bare bones agreement in some specific sectors – to be given more detail later – is made. A deeper agreement will take years and the longer it takes, the more disruptive it can be economically.

Are you expecting UK at some stage in the future to try to enter the EU again?

– I think a more realistic scenario is that we begin with a divorce and we end up asking if we can move a little closer together. In other words, we might begin by emulating the agreement Canada has with the EU and then shift to requesting something closer like the agreement Norway has with the EU.

What Do you think about the Turkish provocation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Libyan memoranda. Do they infringe the sovereignty rights of the neighboring countries, and especially Greece and Cyprus?

– Of course, Turkey is being belligerent and is contravening international law. The EU cannot find this acceptable. But, a regional axis that explicitly and intentionally excluded Turkey was always a high-risk strategy. Turkey’s response is hardly surprising. It’s a test for the EU’s standing in the world. My biggest fear is that Turkey’s belligerence and contraventions will be simply met by EU declarations, rather than real action. If so, what can Cyprus, for example, do? The EU could be shown to be weak and Cyprus left isolated. This would have consequences well beyond the particular case.


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