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    Theresa May 'Sitting in a Relatively Poisoned Seat' – Lecturer

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    The Daily Telegraph reported citing leaked cabinet papers that EU migrants in the UK will be entitled to remain in the country in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. The details of the plan will be included into so-called technical manuals due to be published by the government.

    Radio Sputnik discussed the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and its consequences with Huw Edwards, senior lecturer of economics at Loughborough University.

    Sputnik: Considering that migration was one of the drivers of Brexit, what do you make of these reported proposals allowing EU citizens to stay?

    Huw Edwards: I think it makes a sensible distinction between people who are already here and potential future migrants. You could make an issue of the existence of the people who are already here but if you do that, first of all, many of them may not be easily replaced in the jobs they are in and, more importantly, there are many hundreds of thousands of British people who are living in various parts of Europe. If the status of the EU people who are already here is placed under threat, these could be subject to retaliatory measures. So, it makes a lot of sense.

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    Sputnik: Look at the party itself; given the deep divides within it, how likely do you think it is that Theresa May's Brexit deal will be agreed? In fact, some experts believe that Theresa May's days as prime minister might be numbered.

    Huw Edwards: I'm not a political correspondent or a political scientist, so I think I'd better stay clear of that. However, I can make a few comments. Theresa May does have an option of reaching out across the House. In question being at the moment, Labour are letting her steer in it but there's a possibility, even if Jacob Rees-Mogg and his gang refuse to accept any kind of deal, that she may be able to cobble together something with the opposition.

    Alternatively, she could try a ‘back me or sack me' general election. The other strength she has is that she is sitting in a relatively poisoned seat. Boris Johnson, her potential main rival, has already shown when faced with making embarrassing decisions such as over Heathrow, he does a bunk — to Afghanistan in that case. I think they may be liable just to leave her in it, let her take the blame whatever happens on the grounds nobody else wants to get charged with it.

    Sputnik: A lot is being said now about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit; how high are the chances of crashing out of the EU without a deal?

    Huw Edwards: Bear in mind that both sides will be engaging in threats and so on. Partly the point of the UK trying to raise a threat of a no-deal Brexit is to try and get more concessions from the European Union. Particularly, the UK wants more flexibility, the EU wants to offer us one of a string of existing packages, deals, things which are readily transferable — a Norway deal, a Swiss deal, a Ukrainian or a Canadian deal.

    They would like something based on one of those, the UK wants something more bespoke. The trouble is that the UK hasn't really got a credible threat on this; a no-deal Brexit would cost the Europeans roughly the same amount in terms of pounds or dollars as it will cost us, but if you compare that to the size of the economy it's no doubt that the UK is far more exposed to this.

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    The other thing is that if you're talking about a negotiation strategy like this you really need to take action in advance; you have to sink your costs. If you're going to get into a series of negotiations you really have to arm yourself before you do it.

    But the UK hasn't done that and this is partly because the Leave campaign wanted to make out that any claims that this was complicated or difficult were all down to some project fear cooked up by David Cameron and the Remain campaign. They don't admit that they have to spend a lot of money just to be in a credible bargaining position. But they do; and it also takes time and a lot of organization.

    The Financial Times has identified more than 750 treaties with third-party countries in which the UK has to replace the existing treaty with the EU. In many cases you can just cross out the word ‘UK' and replace it with ‘EU,' but our bargaining position is so weak that other countries may well try it on.

    Even getting those sorts of preparations ready will take some time, and getting the border facilities ready. You hope that you're not going to have to use extra car parks and hundreds of bodyguards and lots of equipment; you hope that these are just threats in order to get a decent deal with the EU, but if you haven't hired them, you can't bargain; and we haven't hired them. The HMRC don't even know how many border staff they have, according to The Independent last week. So, the UK isn't ready.

    Sputnik: The government says that they plan to mitigate the risks of a no-deal Brexit; what do they have in mind?

    Huw Edwards: They are not being open about it. As I said, when tested by The Independent the HMRC couldn't even tell them how many border staff they have. We've got into this position because the Leave campaigners haven't come clean; they misled people. It is a difficult thing. If they want to do it seriously they are going to have to spend a lot of money; there's not going to be more money for the NHS, there's going to be less — you've got to be honest about this. We've got into this position through dishonesty.

    Sputnik: You have just said that a no-deal Brexit would be really bad for the UK; could you just sum it up? What exactly would it mean if you could just explain it in a few words?

    Huw Edwards: I think it depends on when it happens; it depends on how long you've got to prepare for it and what steps you've done. It's effectively some kind of state of emergency; you're going to have to have functioning borders from day one when we don't have the equipment to make it function. Otherwise, you will say that would be the EU's fault because they're closing down their borders; but nobody can really have a failed state on their border. If the UK hasn't put proper facilities in when leaving the EU, then we are, at least for the time being, a failed state.

    The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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