On the 17th of January Theresa May outlined her proposed plan for Brexit. Her speech was optimistic, ambitious but also hostile. She finally answered some of the key questions on the UK and EU’s future relationship. We are leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union (except for some specific areas). This stems from the PM’s interpretation that the Brexit vote was a mandate to lower immigration and leave the Union at all costs, including affecting the of prosperity the UK. This was not on the ballot paper, but is the consistent interpretation of May’s government. Thus yesterday’s announcement was not surprising in this context; it instead realised the fears of those advocating a soft Brexit.
Yet what is the impact of this on younger people? For students and those who want to work abroad, leaving the Single Market instead for a trade agreement with the EU will directly hinder their capacity to travel, work and study in the EU. Anything but a total break will mean, as Theresa puts it, “not leaving the EU at all.” The chosen immigration system for the UK has not yet been outlined, but one would expect there to be a dramatic reduction from the current numbers. The worst-case scenario for me (but likely) will be ending freedom of movement. This potentially means we will have to jump through bureaucratic hoops each time we travel to the EU.
Secondly, the PM outlined her ace in the pack, a direct threat to the Member States if they don’t play ball. She wants a comprehensive free-trade agreement (FTA) similar to the recent EU and Canada agreement. Yet if the deal offered is not satisfactory the government is prepared to walk away from the talks “no deal…is better than a bad deal.” This also includes changing “the basis of Britain’s economic model” (i.e. turn it into a tax haven). That could mean huge reductions in funding for public services as corporation tax is lowered.
The PM does not place a huge amount of importance on the outcome of the talks; we have a “back up plan”. The consequences of ‘plan B’ could be detrimental to the economy and leave younger people vulnerable. Those planning on going to University, paying off their student debt and entering the housing market will be hit hard. In sum, if an acceptable deal cannot be made and the government reverts to ‘plan B’, it will be damaging to us all and those planning their future could be dramatically worse off. Nonetheless, what is clear is Brexit does in fact mean Brexit. We are leaving the EU, and the Prime Minster’s ambitious plan could have negative effects on the UK if it is not received well by our neighbours on the continent.