Brexit keynote speaker. Huge Brexit shock to global economy? Truth about Brexit impact on UK, future of Europe, Eurozone, exchange rates, migration, business and wider world

Written by

Futurist Keynote Speaker: Posts, Slides, Videos - Future Trends, Economy, Markets, Keynote Speaker

Rate This Article

Article written on 28/2/2016 by Brexit Keynote Speaker, Patrick Dixon

Leaders of G20 Nations have declared that Brexit would be a shock to the global economy: hype or fiction? I advise many of the world's largest corporations on global trends, and many are also very concerned about Brexit or Grexit or related events.  What is happening right now should be no surprise (see predictions I made in previous books and posts on these EU / UK issues over last 20 years).

ALSO - see latest post on BREXIT.

Brexit vote will have many significant impacts, regardless of result

Whatever the result of the British EU referendum on 23rd June 2016, the UK vote will be fiercely contested, and will have a profound impact on the future direction of the EU.  Just the fact that such a Brexit vote is taking place is already triggering events elsewhere.  For example, on 26th February, an opinion poll in Denmark showed that most Danes now want to have a vote of their own.  

The future of Europe and of the UK will be driven by a single word, more powerful than economics, or economics, or innovation, and that word is of course  “emotion”.  As I predicted would happen over a decade ago, the wider EU project is now in deep emotional trouble, with 30% of European MPs belonging to protest parties like UKIP (28% of vote), France’s National Front (25%), Denmark’s People’s Party (27%) and far-left Syriza in Greece (27%). Meanwhile, most people in Europe distrust EU politicians, few can name their Euro MPs or the president of the European Commission, and voter turnout is low.

We also need to see the larger picture, setting the wider EU and the Eurozone in the context of unfolding global mega-events.  But before we look at the context….

If UK leaves the EU – what will the longer term impact be of Brexit on Britain?

The truth is that a lot of nonsense is being paraded as fact in the heated Brexit referendum campaign.  Here is a common sense view:

- No one knows what the longer-term economic impact will be of staying in or leaving, because the effects of Brexit will be finely balanced in both directions.

- Markets don’t like change and therefore are likely to see a potential or actual Brexit event as a negative.

- Markets also hate uncertainty and are likely to sell sterling in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.  Some major investors will also delay decisions, while tens of thousands of smaller investors will also wait to see what happens. 

- So the immediate impact from now till the Brexit vote is likely to be weaker currency than would otherwise be the case, and in the months immediately following (because of time delays from investment decisions to jobs) the Brexit vote is likely to reduce slightly economic growth.

- There is unlikely to be a big shock in the markets on the day the Brexit result is announced, because whatever the market sees as potential risks will already be priced in to some extent before voting day.

- The more that markets start fearful selling of “UK Plc” before the actual Brexit vote, the more it will give ammunition to pro-Europeans who are arguing that the UK faces a bleak economic future if the UK leaves. The greater the stampede between now and June 23rd, the more likely it will be that voters will decide at the end to stay in (regardless of what they tell opinion polls).

Brexit will lead almost inevitably to a break up of the UK itself, because the Scottish Nationalist Party is so strongly in favour of keeping Scotland in the EU.  It will make almost inevitable an earlier second vote on Scotland and make it more likely that Scotland will achieve full independence, leaving England, Wales and Northern Ireland humbled by further loss of collective influence and economic power. (See below for more on this)  

- Many who are tempted to vote for Brexit have a fantasy of returning to a strong, independent UK, as a sovereign state, a powerful nation on a global stage, able to determine its own future.  But if those same people start worrying that Britain as a whole might rapidly unravel as a direct second step, then it may make them think again.  What would we all then be sovereign of?

- Other events may well have a major impact on the Brexit decision – in particular further millions of people on the move towards or into the EU from Syria or Northern Africa.  Remember how the photo of a single drowned child on a Greek beach led to Angela Merkel announcing that Germany would accept 800,000 refugees.  Many thousands died earlier, and have since.  Be prepared that a single, highly emotive, migrant-related story, shortly before voting day, may tip the UK irrevocably towards Brexit.

- Brexit would lead almost certainly to special Visa waivers or a light Visa regime for those in the EU, to prevent the UK suffering a big penalty in business and tourism.  And no-one in the UK wants a punitive entry regime to face them every time they fly to Paris or Cologne.

- Brexit would mean total control over things like benefit payments to recent migrants, and make it easier to pick and chose who enters the UK, but we should not imagine that a widely perceived "migration problem" will just go away.  For example, very large numbers of people who settle in the UK each year do so from nations outside the EU.  

- Brexit will reduce but cannot prevent further large-scale migrations to the UK.  The UK has a major labour shortage in many parts of the economy - despite the impression in the media - with very low unemployment (5%).  On current figures the average person is out of work for a year in every 20 years - even including those who are almost unemployable.  So whatever happens we will end up providing huge numbers of Visas to EU workers.  And the UK is unable (despite what people think) to police its borders.  People can and do enter officially for a week or two, and stay on for years.  Or they may enter unofficially hidden in lorries, or cars, or on boats.  So the idea that leaving the EU means the UK can make a wall of steel around itself is rather naive.

- The UK is one of the world's largest economies and a vital trading partner for many EU nations, so a Norwegian type of relationship is likely to be sought by both sides if Brexit occurs.

- The UK financial sector will not be dramatically affected if Brexit occurs.  The City functions very well as one of the world’s dominant banking communities despite being outside the Euro, and will remain so for many years to come.  Being outside the EU will have disadvantages, but will also make many things easier, breaking from the shackles imposed by a community of nations with little or no financial sectors to speak of.

- The EU is moribund – economically and demographically and will be increasingly irrelevant to UK economic growth, whatever happens re Brexit.  1 billion children are alive today, mainly in the poorest nations, and 85% of humanity will be living in emerging markets in a decade - where almost all growth opportunities will be.  In contrast, in Germany today you need 8 great-grandparents to produce a single great-grand-child, because fertility rates have fallen so low.  Similar situation in a number of other EU nations, and in some UK communities. Being out of the EU will focus UK growth on exporting to these growing markets, and will make it easier to do so.

- Brexit would inevitably lead to an orgy of cancelled directives, dumped rules, and celebrations of new freedoms – reducing business costs, making commerce easier, encouraging entrepreneurs and foreign investment.

- On the other hand, Brexit will discourage foreign investors who use the UK as a manufacturing base for the rest of Europe – particularly car makers.  As a result of such investment, the UK manufactures more vehicles each year than at any time in previous history.

- However, before we get too excited about the potential impact of - say - an EU import tariff of 5%, we need to remember that such a cost increase could be more than offset by other factors such as a fall in exchange rate in sterling against the Euro, if the UK economy is hit to any degree.  And that could mean immediately that those same exports to Europe would be significantly cheaper.  Net result: could be zero or even positive in Brexit favour.

- Brexit will have very little impact on UK’s service exports – consulting, accounting, management services, games manufacturing, App development, music and films and so on.

- Brexit without doubt increases immediate and short term risks.  A further deciding factor in a close vote may be a compelling argument to waverers that our world is facing many urgent and complex challenges, together with multiple risks eg another economic meltdown, a new type of Cold War, uncontrollable migrations on gigantic scale – and that even if it is right to leave, to do so now would be very foolish, adding even more risks and uncertainties.

- Some will vote for Brexit who want the UK to remain in the EU but on better terms. A further deciding factor in favour of Brexit may be a (probably false) belief that the most likely outcome of a vote to leave would be that the EU would finally yield more concessions, so that a second prompt vote could be cast to stay back in after all.  However this is without doubt a very risky strategy.  After all, if the result was that the EU caved into post-vote pressure, it would give huge encouragement for any other disaffected nation to try the same trick.

- If Brexit occurs, there is likely to be major pressure in at least one other nation for the constitutional right of its own citizens to have a similar referendum.  And those outcomes might also lead to similar exits, rapidly undermining confidence in the longer term viability of the entire EU project.

So then, the world is unlikely to come to an end for those in the UK if the UK leaves or if it stays.  Complex factors will balance against each other.   The vote is likely to be close.  Markets are likely to fret.  

In summary, Brexit is likely to trigger many profound consequences - beyond control of any leader or nation.

However, the truth is that we will never know what the true overall impact of a Brexit was or would have been, because we will only be able to speculate what would have followed if the other option had been voted for.  Historians will therefore debate these issues for generations.

Background to Brexit, and several other potential exits

Tribalism will continue to dominate and threaten the future of the European Union, as a Tribe of Tribes. There is no common language or shared culture, and national interests are fiercely defended. The EU has muddled along, avoiding many tough decisions, but struggles to respond rapidly in a crisis, so will continue to be vulnerable to global or regional shocks.  Just one such shock has been recent chaos in Syria and the overwhelming size of refugee movements.\

The EU was created to promote European Peace and has carried this role successfully.  Despite the troubles created by Tribalism in Europe, the fact is that the EU was created originally not to promote economic growth, but primarily to prevent war. Ravaged by two catastrophic European-originated wars separated by less than 20 years, national leaders decided to merge economies in such a way that it would be really difficult to go to war against each other again.  And in this, the EU project has been very successful.  We take peace for granted too easily.  By now, on previous trends, we should have seen a 4th World War erupting from within Europe, with agitations towards a 5th.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit, the European Union will remain a cluster of inter-tribal compromises, dominated by Germany, and held back for at least the next 5-10 years by economic malaise in many of its poorest members.   If the UK departs, the influence of France will rise, and Germany’s pro-business, pro-growth agendas will be stifled even further by the collective voices of the rest of the EU, especially Eurozone nations.

The EU will continue to be very good at passing new laws for trivial matters, and very bad at tackling fundamental issues. But hundreds of new laws will make life even more difficult and expensive for factories and retailers, and enforcement will continue to vary widely from country to country. 

More strains in Europe from monetary union

I predicted before the 2008 crisis that tribal and economic strains in Europe were likely to become immense. Regardless of the Brexit vote outcome, it is hard to see how the eurozone will survive in its current form without even greater pain and unrest. Countries with very different economic problems and business cycles remain locked together by common exchange and interest rates. Expect further steps to closely integrate Euro economies, with more loss of national powers. 

Greece has been overwhelmed by government debts, greater than 170% of the size of its economy while its economy shrank by 25% during 2008-2014. If there is no agreement to write off much of the debt, Greece is likely to default eventually, and could well end up leaving the euro. Balance sheets of European banks are better prepared than they were, but such an exit could well be destabilising for the Euro project as a whole. Markets will speculate about which nation might be the next to exit, leading to destabilisation of that nation, and self-fulfilling prophecies about economic decline, spiralling towards the same Euro exit door.

America will continue to be a dominant EU partner 

America still invests 3 times more in the EU than in the whole of Asia. And EU investment in America is 8 times that in India and China combined – while a third of all global trade is between the EU and America. The future of the EU will be overly dependent on the American economy for the next two decades, even though the only hope of strong economic growth will come from trade with emerging markets.

Farming subsidies still account for 40% of the entire EU budget. But as we have seen, the future depends on rapid investment in innovation, next-generation manufacturing, precision engineering, aeronautics, biotech, medtech, nanotech, Big Data, Internet of Things, mobile financial services, e-commerce, new venture capital, enterprise zones, joint ventures on emerging markets, and so on. So where is the equivalent-sized EU budget for such things?

The European project may yet be saved by some of 500 million people from emerging nations who would like to live and work in the EU, legally or illegally, several million of whom have already gained access in the last 5 years alone. Many are highly educated, entrepreneurial, and bring investment with them, while others do unpopular jobs for low wages. 

Corruption and control in the European Union

The EU will continue to be a corrupt, monolithic, non-accountable and wasteful institution. For the past 19 years, auditors have refused to sign off the accounts as accurate. In 2013, for example, they reported that €6 billion had been spent ‘in error’ – up 23% on the year before. 

So how on earth do so many ‘errors’ and fraudulent decisions get made? I was asked to give a lecture on ‘Ethics in Leadership’ to some of the most senior leaders in the European Commission. At very short notice, I managed to get hold of an e-voting system, with a handset for each member of the audience, which allowed them to make secret responses to my embarrassing questions. Their answers were very disturbing but hardly surprising. The lecture was recorded and an edited version is on YouTube.1 

Many participants admitted that they had recently been put under pressure to do something that they thought was morally wrong. In many cases this was something so serious, that in their own country it would have been likely to be on the front pages of the newspapers, should it have been revealed. What is more, most felt they had no choice but to obey. The person asking them was usually their own boss, and they had no one to turn to. 

Despite all this, size and inertia will almost certainly enable the eurozone to muddle along for some considerable time, perhaps even for a generation or two, even if there are changes in the list of Euro or EU members, with the UK possibly leading the way. 

Tribalism will reshape the United Kingdom

The vast majority of the UK lives in England, a nation within a nation that will struggle with identity, except during international sporting events. England has no national language (English is global), no well-recognised tribal dress, and has often been defined in the past by being British – which has irritated many who are Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish.

Discussions on public spending are not going to get any easier and whoever is in government will face pressure to cut costs or raise revenues, or both. And the less attractive government debt becomes to the markets, the more borrowing costs will rise.

Choices on tax or spending will therefore be very limited.

Article written on 28/2/2016 by Brexit Keynote Speaker, Patrick Dixon

UK government policy direction post Brexit vote - regardless of outcome

This is what we can expect in government spending etc:

- further cuts in government spending 

- strict control of public pay awards

- increase in taxes for middle and high earners

- allowing inflation to drift well above 2% targets at times, diminishing the value to lenders of low-interest government bonds

- low corporation tax and other measures to encourage investment into the UK, and headquartering of multinationals

- continued growth in UK strengths such as fashion, film, music, design, pharma, architecture, consulting 

- recovery of banking and financial services – with new revenue streams, related particularly to emerging markets

- expansion of UK automated manufacturing, e.g., car industry

- attracting a new generation of wealthy and highly talented settlers, who see the UK as a refuge 

- encouraging sovereign wealth funds to invest in new infrastructure

- growth in exports to many emerging nations, benefiting from historic trade, cultural and language ties and relatively low UK wage inflation. 

UK fantasy finally fades of being a global power

The UK has long had one of the highest figures for military spending in the world as a percent of GDP, but this level of spending will be almost impossible to maintain over the next decade. 

The UK will continue to nurse a fading fantasy of being a global power, the second police force of the world after America – but this already looks absurd in the light of dwindling armed forces. In the 1940s, Britain still ruled over 25% of the world’s land area from London. It is still hard for this independent-minded, island nation to cope with the thought of being ruled by the EU from Brussels.

Likely breakup of the UK and impact on Northern Ireland peace if Brexit voters win

As I say, expect a further vote on Scottish independence in the next decade, especially if the UK as a whole decides to leave the European Union.  The dominant Scottish Nationalist Party has made it absolutely clear that Scotland should remain in the EU, and if Brexit takes place, the event will most likely trigger a repeat referendum on Scottish independence.

A second Scottish vote could well result in the breakup of the UK, despite arguments that oil revenues will be too low to sustain Scottish ambitions. And if not, we can expect a third vote, some years on. Tribalism is a very strong force, and the global trend is firmly set towards autonomy and self-government. 

And a Brexit will also have implications for peace in Northern Ireland.  For the last few years, the peace process has been helped by the fact that the north and south parts of the single island of Irish peoples have been united by an almost non-existent border.  Large numbers of agencies and organisations operate across that border, strengthening unity.  A re-imposed border between EU and non-EU will sharpen divisions between north and south.

Royal reforms and an English flag flying 

Tribalism will save the monarchy, albeit on a smaller scale, because otherwise there would be so little left of British or English culture. The fundamental problem with the monarchy is that royalty is based on genetic discrimination and family lines. This genetic elitism will seem increasingly bizarre and morally suspect to a people who have fought for equality of opportunity, fairness, and lack of discrimination. 

Whatever the outcome of Brexit or Scottish Independence votes, expect to see a rebirth of the English tribe: a fresh energy in a new generation who want to be as English as the Scots are Scottish, or the French are French. National state funerals, the last night of the BBC Prom concerts, international football matches and other events will help focus this new sense of tribal identity.

Article written on 28/2/2016 by Brexit Keynote Speaker, Patrick Dixon

* What do YOU think about Brexit and issue above?  Post your own views below, and continue a conversation.

Article written on 28/2/2016


Related news items:
Newer news items:
Older news items:


Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to hear your views. Post below.

chas m green
May 28, 2016 - 14:33

The south of wales and borders with uk are aware of the irish capable of hotting up I would guess it will affect their vote. Wales gets 79 pounds per head from the EU It seems dubious they will think otherwise with this additional motivation

Doug Flett
February 27, 2016 - 11:08

...may get a chance to say hello at the Scottish National Prayer Breakfast (I'm on exec team) - as a 'wide-angle lens' person and 25years with business and city networks, it would be interesting to compare notes with you.

Reply to Doug Flett
Patrick Dixon
February 28, 2016 - 19:01

Do make sure you say hello.... Let's also connect via LinkedIn etc. Looking forward very much to the NPB - just 2 days before the Brexit vote!

Reply to Doug Flett
Doug Flett
February 29, 2016 - 15:58

thanks Patrick, will do in June. Doug

Join the Debate! What are your own views?


?

 

Our cookie policy

We use cookies for statistical purposes. To comply with the e-Privacy Directive we need to ask your consent to place these cookies on your computer.

Your use of this site indicates acceptance of these terms. I accept