Monday

25th Oct 2021

Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

  • Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. 'Within the EU, sectors such as food, transport vehicles, machinery, and electronics will be particularly badly hit' (Photo: DIUS Corporate)

Local and regional governments in the UK and the EU are bracing themselves for a Christmas and New Year like no other.

In any normal festive period, public services are stretched to the limit, but this year we are in crisis mode managing the pandemic.

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Added to this potent mix is Brexit.

With only a few weeks to the end of the transition period, hopes of full trade deal are fading.

There will be a severe fallout and disruption for many communities, but the question is who will lose the most, when and what can we do to help.

The only certainty is that the UK leaving the EU will not prevent cities and regions building on four decades of partnership to mitigate not only the impact of Brexit, but reinforce cooperation to respond to shared challenges.

We should never forget that previous British governments helped build the EU – with its democratic decision-making, laws, funds and programmes – that we see today.

Yet, the three and a half years of negotiations have followed a spirit of destruction, rather than construction, with even threats to violate international law.

Negotiations have been slow, laborious, lacking in trust, and driven more by political ideology than economic pragmatism, with regions and cities expected to shoulder the consequences.

Yet no one can afford a further collapse of regional economies, even more so during a pandemic.

Research published by the London School of Economies and UK in a Changing Europe forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy.

A study by the EU's Committee of the Regions showed that the impact on the EU27 regions will vary considerably.

From trade flows, border controls to understanding who can and cannot work and settle in our communities, still today there are simply too many unknowns.

Within the EU, sectors such as food, transport vehicles, machinery, and electronics will be particularly badly hit.

Regions particularly exposed to trade disruptions span the continent – from every region in Ireland to parts of Poland, Slovakia, Czechia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.

The most vulnerable regions are, of course, within the United Kingdom itself, including London. It is imperative that the British and EU governments alike continually assess the regional impact and offer the right financial support to protect livelihoods and businesses.

And if there is a deal?

Even if an EU-UK deal is done, it will tell us only what the two sides can agree upon at this moment, under pressure of an economic disaster greater than the pandemic – it will tell us relatively little about the medium- and long-term future. What can be done?

As political city and region leaders, this is a question that we always have to ask ourselves. And when – as now – those at the top of our political system are failing or struggling, it becomes even more important for politicians at the regional and local level to try to improve things from the bottom up.

From supporting tourism to working together to tackle climate change, from finding solutions to maintaining the flow of trade across borders and migration, local and regional governments must continue to work together to build sustainable, resilient communities.

Brexit will have consequences for all our regions and cities, which must continue to work together, pool expertise and look forward even without the formal supportive environment that the European Union provided.

A new group launched recently by the EU's regions and cities is one platform by which we plan to maintain close cooperation.

If we consider sustainable development and climate change, the EU has been a champion globally – placing it firmly on the international agenda.

It legally committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050 last year, something that London is also committed to. As drivers of change, the transition to low-carbon sustainable living will always fall to local and regional governments. With the UN's COP26 to be held in Glasgow next year, we will use this opportunity to solidify our relations, share knowledge and work together.

We believe it is possible to consolidate what has been created over 47 years as members of the same community, and to transform it into a special relationship. Cooperation builds resilience – and, in a time of pandemic and climate change, resilience is sorely needed.

Brexit has always been a process, not an overnight change. Even after the current endgame is played out, it will take many more years to establish new boundaries and understand what this separation and its consequences will mean for all of us and our communities.

Cities and regions, in the UK and the EU, will need to work shoulder-to-shoulder, to find ways to smooth and mitigate the impact on our respective communities.

Brexit must not hamper our efforts to work on issues of mutual importance. We urge other parts of UK and European society to do as we are doing: reflecting on how to forge ambitious cross-Channel relationships that meet the needs of our citizens and our time.

It is through dialogue, compromise and multilateralism, not inward looking nationalism, that we best represent the interests of our citizens. In this spirit as city and regional leaders, we are determined to work together beyond – and despite – Brexit.

Author bio

Sadiq Khan is mayor of London. Apostolos Tzitzikostas is president of the European Committee of the Regions and governor of the region of Central Macedonia, Greece.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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