These are the possible scenarios for the UK and the EU after Brexit.
Brexit could be remembered as several things: As the UK’s greatest geopolitical fault in history, as the beginning of the end of the European Union or, on the contrary, as an opportunity for both contingents to reinforce and overcome adversity.
Let’s look at some possible scenarios of coexistence between the UK and the EU:
- The “Norwegian option“: The United Kingdom could adhere to the European Free Trade Agreement (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland form part of the “EFTA”), and, as an EFTA Member State, the UK would have prospects to join in the European Economic Area (EEA). This option entails a significant degree of integration of the UK into the EEA market, but would also require a high degree of internalisation of the Union’s secondary law. In other words, the UK would not be part of the Union but would be forced to comply with virtually all EU acts governing the internal market, without being able to participate in its negotiation and approval process.
- The “Swiss option“: The UK could enter into a series of bilateral association agreements with the EU, focusing on specific areas, such as the free movement of goods, the free movement of persons or the coordination of social security systems for workers exercising freedom of movement between the UK and the Union. The Association Agreements give third countries a preferential trade relationship, but their content will depend on the terms of each individual negotiation. Unlike the Norwegian option, the Union law would not be applicable in the United Kingdom, but only that set out in the bilateral Association Agreements. In short, it would be a fragmented business relationship, in accordance with each subject whether there is an association agreement or not.
- The “International option“: The UK could base its trade relations with the Union solely on existing multilateral trade agreements. This option would be based mainly on the agreements adopted within the framework of the World Trade Organisation and would not give the UK a preferential relationship with other Union trade partners. However, this solution would give the United Kingdom a greater degree of autonomy from the Union, but at the price of limited penetration in the European internal market.
Although these are the possible scenarios we might face, it is difficult to place the United Kingdom in any of these models for various reasons:
- One of the main reasons for the departure of the United Kingdom is the strong pressure for migration due to the free movement of persons enacted by the EU, making it difficult for the United Kingdom to accept a regime similar to that of Norway, including Switzerland.
- The United Kingdom is aware of its trade dependence with the EU, and although it maintains the status of doing a ‘hard Brexit’, it is in the best interest to maintain a trade position almost as beneficial as it’s currently enjoying, and none of the three options may please the United Kingdom due to the short range of Swiss and international models, and the conditions for free movement of the Norwegian model.
In conclusion, it is highly likely that the relationship between the two contingents will be unique and very different from those presented above, and that the treaty born by Brexit creates a new model of autonomous coexistence.
If you are interested in Brexit, we highly recommend that you take a look at more recent updates regarding this issue. Our aim is to keep the expat community up to date with the legal consequences on Brexit, and we will continue to keep you informed on future changes, so make sure to subscribe.