A large part of the western world kept a close eye on the outcome of the Dutch elections. Perhaps they are right to do so, as anti-EU sentiment in the Netherlands might be the stone that sets the domino in motion, with subsequent elections coming up in France and Germany. On the other side of the Channel, the anti-EU sentiment has come to fruition already. The United Kingdom has embraced the Brexit, even though PM Theresa May did find some hurdles on the way. Let us have a look what the plan to exit the EU has done to the country thus far.
It is simply a matter of time before May will trigger Article 50, the now infamous clause that sets the departure of a member state out of the EU in motion. When she does that, the United Kingdom will have to negotiate the divorce terms with the European Union member states. Contrary to what Dutch politicians have been saying throughout this campaign, the United Kingdom is faring quite well. In fact, optimism in the country about its soon-to-be status as a single is high.
optimism in the country about its soon-to-be status as a single is high
This was substantiated in the Spring Budget that Chancellor of the Exchequer (cf. Finance Minister) Philip Hammond (Conservative Party) presented last week. Comparable to the Dutch ‘Miljoenennota’, the Spring Budget shows the economic outlook for the United Kingdom. That one is, to say it mildly, optimistic. The British economy grew at a fast pace, even faster than the United States or Japan or France. Moreover, employment in the country was high and inflation low. Not too bad for a country that allegedly suffered tremendous blows from the Brexit.
Granted, the outlook is still less optimistic than it would have been without an impending Brexit. Due to lower levels of expected consumption and tax receipts, the budget surplus that was projected prior to the referendum has turned into a budget deficit. Nevertheless, higher growth has given Hammond and May a strong bargaining chip they can deploy in the negotiation talks with the European Union. That bargaining chip consists of 27 billion pounds, which can be utilized to take a couple of hits should the economy go south when the Brexit is finalized. Indeed, the situation still is extremely ambiguous and uncertainty about how plans will work out exactly is omnipresent.
higher growth has given Hammond and May a strong bargaining chip
What does this news mean for other countries in which anti-EU advocates have obtained loudly resonated voices? Whilst the United Kingdom is thus far an unprecedented example, it is hard to generalize from one case study – any scholar trying to do this will surely be halted. What can be said, however, is that an exit procedure does not necessarily mean bad news for an individual country, as the United Kingdom has shown.
It is up to Theresa May and Philip Hammond to leverage the prosperous situation the United Kingdom finds itself in within the European Union. Surely Marine Le Pen, who has promised a Frexit should she become president, will be on the first row to observe.