The authoritative source for independent research on UK-EU relations

14 Nov 2018

The UK in a Changing Europe’s Brexit Policy Panel (BPP) is a cross-disciplinary group of more than 100 academics from across the social sciences. It was created to provide ongoing analysis of where we have got to in the Brexit process, and to forecast where we are headed.

Members of the BPP complete a monthly survey addressing three key areas of uncertainty around Brexit: if – and when – the UK will leave the EU; how Brexit will affect British politics; and what our relationship with the EU is likely to look like in the future.

  • There is a growing consensus that checks in Ireland will be ‘East-West’ (48%) rather than ‘North-South’ (26%). Only 22% think there will be no checks.
  • Only 11% of our panel think that a provisional deal will be agreed between the UK and the EU in November.
  • The panel think the parliamentary arithmetic in the House of Commons is in the balance: overall, they give Theresa May a 57% chance of getting her deal through.
  • A ‘Canada Style’ deal is viewed as the most probable outcome by 42% of the panel. However, this is down from 57% last month – the chance of either a bespoke Swiss-style single market access (25% chance) or one based around the main parameters of the Chequer’s Agreement (20% chance) are seen as increasingly likely.
  • The panel are increasingly certain that the UK will leave the EU on the date of 29 March 2019 – this is viewed as likely by 79% of experts.
  • Our panel are sceptical about the prospects of a further referendum on EU membership – giving a 28% chance of a further vote.

The Brexit Choices

In last month’s survey, there was a spike in those believing that a Canada-style free-trade deal would be the most likely outcome from Brexit. This continues to be the view of a plurality of our panel (42%), but is down from 57% last month.

There is a growing consensus on the outcome on the Irish border. ‘East-West’ checks are seen as significantly more likely than any other option: 48% think the border will be ‘East-West’, compared to 29% that expect the principal checks to be ‘North-South’. When we first asked the panel in July, an East-West border was viewed as the least likely outcome – representing a significant shift in expectations.

There is less consensus over future customs arrangements. Our panel assigned a roughly equal likelihood to the three options for a trade agreement: pursuing a free-trade deal with the EU that precludes customs union membership (36%), reaching a bespoke agreement on collecting customs duties (32%) or the UK remaining a member of a customs union (28%).

The negotiating dynamics

In the Article 50 negotiations, the ticking clock is a crucial factor. We asked the Brexit Policy Panel about three deadlines. Firstly March 2019, and whether the UK and the EU will be able to negotiate a withdrawal agreement treaty by end of the Article 50 process. Second, when this deal is likely to be agreed by the negotiating teams. Finally, if there is a deal and the UK leaves the EU, whether the current date for the transition of December 2020 will leave sufficient time to negotiate a future relationship treaty.

On the Article 50 process, 43% think a deal will be reached by March, 25% think it won’t be agreed, and 32% are unsure. This tallies with the broad expectation that a no deal Brexit is possible, though not the most likely outcome.

The panel are sceptical a deal will be reached in November – just 11% feel a deal will come this month. Some 33% think a deal is likely in December, 16% in January 2019, 7% in February, with 18% believing a deal between negotiators will only be reached in March

There is a consensus that the current end date for transition will provide insufficient time to negotiate a new trade agreement with the EU – 61% think no trade deal will be agreed in time, and 79% think that an extension of the transition period is likely to follow.

The political dynamics

If a deal is negotiated, the big question is whether the Prime Minister will be able to garner enough support in Parliament for it to pass through the Commons. There is slight increased optimism among our panel that Theresa May will be able to piece together a coalition of MPs in Parliament to support the government’s deal. The panel gave the deal a 57% chance of passing, up from 53% last month.

The hurdles to a referendum taking place before next March are now viewed as nearly insurmountable – the likelihood of such a vote taking place continues to fall, down from 31% to 28% this month.

Prospects for the Future

This month we asked our panel to look ahead to the next five years and to make some predictions about the likely impact of Brexit.

First, the good news. The panel think that UK exports to outside the EU are likely to either receive a boost or be unaffected by Brexit. Some 27% think exports to outside the EU will increase, and 45% that they will stay the same. Only 21%, around one in five experts, expect exports to the rest of the world to be hit by Brexit.

However, there is an overwhelming consensus that direct investment into the UK from outside the EU will be lost. Some 70% of our expert panel expect direct investment to fall, and only 6% think the UK will become a more attractive place for direct investment.

We also asked whether immigration from the rest of the world was likely to go up or down after Brexit. 32% think it is likely to increase, 46% that levels will stay about the same and just 15% think immigration will decrease.

Finally, our panel thought Brexit is likely to have a real-world impact on the NHS – 71% of whom think there will be a negative impact on the health service, and 28% thinking the standard of the NHS will stay about the same or there will be no NHS effect.

The October BPP expert survey consists of 120 responses from academics in a variety of disciplines across the social sciences, mainly from UK institutions. View the infographics and the graphs. Please find the full list of BPP members here.


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