Your Brexit questions answered by FT experts
FT writers and editors Miranda Green, Peter Spiegel, Robert Shrimsley and Anne-Sylvaine Chassany reply to the FT's Instagram following
Produced, directed and edited by James Sandy; filmed by Petros Gioumpasis; animation by Russell Birkett
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Uh, to this camera.
So Brexit, what the **** is going on? Blunt and to the point.
This is a question, I must say, we ask ourselves with some regularity in the newsroom at the FT.
In essence, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and we have spent the last two years arguing about how we're going to do it.
Because it's way more complicated to disentangle ourselves from the rest of the EU. Forty-five years of legal complexity, trading arrangements, co-operation-- on everything from security to clean beaches, than it seemed during a referendum which focused on two or three issues, principally immigration.
There was a belief that by cutting the cord from the EU, this would be relatively easy, relatively simple. You take back control. You negotiate free trade deals with the rest of the world. But I think very quickly it became clear that that's not doable. So what do you do next? Once that reality hits home you have to try to negotiate an exit with the EU that keeps you pretty close to the EU. But the EU has said, if you want to keep close to the EU, you have to live by some of our rules. And this has been the tension forever.
How many of the European Union's rules are we prepared to keep? And in return, how much access will the European Union give us to their benefits? So Britain is not prepared to keep free movement of people. The prime minister's made this the fundamental thing. And as a result of not keeping free movement of people, the right of all European citizens to come and live in Britain and all British citizens to go and live in Europe, we can't stay in the single market. So that means that's gone.
But essentially, what we've ended up with is something which, far from settling the question, has kept alive and kept open deep disagreements inside the UK about what our future relationship should be with the EU that we're leaving. And we actually plunged into what has become a political crisis, a constitutional crisis, because who should finally decide? The will of the people through a referendum that was unclear and quite a narrow win for the 'leave' majority, or parliament, where there is no majority for cutting ties radically with the rest of the EU?
How will the UK change after...
Yeah, I've got that one here.
Great. Just starting with that one, please.
OK. How will the UK change after Brexit? Well, that's the big debate. The Brexiters would have you believe that we will ultimately be freer, richer, and more in control of our own destiny, we'll certainly have control of our own borders. The Remainers think we'll be poorer, smaller, and less influential.
The UK will be poorer. Everybody's going to be poorer. It's going to depend on the future relationship with the union, with the European Union. If it's very close to what is currently the case with not-as-frictionless trade but close enough, then you'll be limiting the economic damage.
If we leave with something resembling the deal that the prime minister has struck, then manufacturers, goods, they will mostly carry on for the time being unaffected, except for the fact that Britain will no longer have any say in the making of these rules wheras previously it had a say.
If it's a free-trade agreement like a Canada-plus-plus, as we call it, it will hurt the UK because it will be more difficult to export its goods into the single market, and it will be also more expensive to import goods from the single market.
One thing is already clear: a much tighter immigration environment is already affecting whether Britain can actually tempt to the UK the skilled workers and, frankly, the unskilled workers that it really needs to keep key sectors going. That's not just in things like agriculture, it's also things like in care homes to look after our elderly, it's the NHS for medical staff. That's to do with the emphasis on immigration in the agreement that Mrs May has struck with the rest of the EU, because she feels that immigration was so important to Brexit voters.
It's almost impossible to overstate just how divided the country is on this issue. There have been opinion polls which show that, actually, people identify themselves now as Remainers or Leavers far more than they identify themselves as supporters of a particular political party. So this is an issue that will scar everybody who took part in this referendum and this process probably for the vast part of their political lives.