This is probably one of the finest articles that I have read on Brexit. It provides penetrating insights into the possible alternatives to a simplistic In/Out analysis.
Although I’m passionately European and pro-Remain, I cannot believe that things will be the same after the referendum, even if there is a strong win for Remain. The campaign has raised legitimate concerns about immigration and over-population.
If there is a referendum win for Brexit, it looks like MPs would put the brake on exit negotiations. Patrick Wintour’s arguments are very valid. However, note his concern about France’s reaction being hostile. Yes, the full range of negotiated position is potentially available. But there are a number of very real risks in the grey zone.
Firstly, financial markets will react negatively to the uncertainty of a Brexit win. This will stimulate fear, with jobs and investment immediately at risk. We don’t yet know how the Bank of England would respond. Similarly, the Treasury would need to reassess its budget with tax revenues being at risk.
Secondly, the prognosis for bilateral trade negotiations is bleak. See the recent excellent article by London based think tank, Chatham House.
Thirdly, after Brexit, focus will swing towards national elections in both France and Germany, and it is likely that French and German leaders would be forced to take a hard-line with the UK. The UK would be left to stew in its own juices.
Fourthly, it is not clear that the UK has available legal and specialist resources to disentangle from the EU. Large contingencies would be needed by the Treasury to pay for expensive big firm lawyers and consultants. Partner level strategy consultants cost circa GBP5,000 a day.
Fifthly, there would likely be a Conservative Party leadership challenge and there would be the uncertainty of the next prime minister not having been elected by the people.
Sixthly, there are law and order risks. The uncertain grey zone will quickly fan xenophobia and violence could follow. Also a major terrorist incident in the UK or continental Europe will take precedence and defer post Brexit negotiations.
In short, after the Brexit referendum I see the UK entering a extended grey zone of risk and uncertainty, irrespective of which side wins. It is conceivable that parliament could ignore or seriously water down the impact of of the referendum.