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Jonathan Portes: “Brexit has reshaped the political landscape”

Britain’s general elections on June 8 were marked by the departure of the UK from the EU. The professor of economics and scholar of Brexit spoke to The Prisma before the elections and saw the possible scenarios in case of a conservative triumph and suggested the potential consequences in regard to migratory laws.


Jonathan Portes MarcosOrtiz (3)
Jonathan Portes. Photo by Marcos Ortiz

Marcos Ortiz F.


Just as Brexit will marked the British elections called on by Theresa May, these elections will be key to the development of the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

University College London Professor of Economics and Public Policy Jonathan Portes says several different scenarios appear in the British future by 2022, the year of the next election.

“The Conservative government is –for better or worse– presenting itself as the only party that can get on with Brexit and so far that appears to be a successful political strategy”, he assured when speaking with The Prisma before the elections.

What effect do you think Brexit will have on the general elections in June?

It is very much a post-Brexit election. Brexit has reshaped the political landscape. It appears to have largely destroyed the UKIP, and it appears to have left the Labour party searching for a rationale to be quite honest.

Jael De la Luz inmigrante-wikipedia-3 (The Prisma)This looks like being a Brexit election which will lead to the return to a Conservative government with a clear mandate to deliver Brexit in the way that it chooses. How that will reshape British politics over the longer term is very difficult to say.

The other way round: What effect will the elections have on Brexit?

One interpretation is that because Brexit will change the political timetable and because the new government elected –and let’s assume it’s a Conservative majority government– will have a mandate until 2022, that may give it somewhat more time to deliver Brexit, and in particular it may give it both a mandate and the political time and space to ensure that Brexit is implemented not over the next two years but in practice over the next 4 to 5 years.

In other words, while we will formally leave the EU in 2019, there might be some sort of transition period during which rather little will have changed in practical and economic terms in the period 2019 to 2021 or 2022.

Inmigrantes foto de Pixabay 4From the UK’s point of view, economically, this would certainly be regarded by businesses as hugely preferable. It would also, from the point of view of administration, make a lot of things easier.

For example it seems highly unlikely that we will have a new immigration system in operation that will be capable of being in operation in 2019. Not because of Brexit negotiations but simply because of the difficulties in legislating, implementing and programing all of the computers that would be needed to get that implemented in 2019. So there are a lot of obvious advantages to the UK in stretching the timetable out rather longer. And maybe this election will enable the government to do that.

That is the optimistic perspective. Of course over the last two weeks what has happened is because of the election campaign there has been a rather confrontational tone in the negotiations. If that continues, of course there is a possibility that there will be no deal, hence no transitional or implementation fees and obviously that could lead to a chaotic exit of the UK in 2

inmigrantes-arabe-musul-wikipediaWhat effect will the general elections have on immigrants?

What is very important is what happens in the few months after the election. Let’s assume again that the result of the election is the re-election of the Conservative government with a clear mandate. You can think of two ways in which things would go.

Obviously there are lots of different permutations, but broadly Theresa May could take this as a mandate to negotiate flexibly with the EU.

Say I’ve got the country behind me, I’m going to negotiate flexibly, I’m going to make compromises, I will have a mandate to say to people who say you shouldn’t make compromises, that now it is in the best interests of the country to make compromises on things like the status of European citizens here, on things like the so-called divorce bill, and so on. And to extend the timetable, I have a mandate and therefore I will get these negotiations to a constructive and cooperative start. That would clearly benefit certainly the EU residents here but more probably the country as a whole.

pajaro inmigrantesWhat’s the other way things could go?

Equally it is possible that if it leads to a larger majority of what we’ve seen as a mandate by the Prime Minister to take a very inflexible and hard line, particularly on things like the UK’s so-called divorce bill and the financial contribution; if that leads to a confrontation and to some sort of break down, again, that will be very bad for the UK in general, but it will also quite possibly be negative and disruptive for EU citizens living here. At the very least it will prolong a period of uncertainty and limbo where they do not know what their future status will be.

(Photos: Pixabay)

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