Interview: No-deal Brexit a giant downside for UK and Europe

by Gui Tao, Peter Barker, Zhang Dailei

LONDON, March 13 (Xinhua) — After British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by lawmakers on Tuesday night, a no-deal Brexit will be put to the vote on Wednesday.

However, a leading academic said a no-deal Brexit could be a big problem for Britain and the European Union (EU).

“I think a no-deal Brexit is a pretty big problem for the UK but not for the world,” Professor Martin Albrow told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Albrow is a figure of authority within the academic community. He was among the first sociology academics in British universities, and his studies of German sociologist Max Weber and of globalization are highly regarded.

A no-deal Brexit could still be an occurrence on March 29, when the formal Brexit process of Article 50 expires.

In addition to a negotiated deal, an extension of Article 50 and even a second referendum are still possibilities.

“It will be damaging to the European economy. I’ve seen analyses which suggest there will be a definite measurable decline in European productivity,” said Albrow.

“Britain is about the second largest economy within Europe and so if it removes itself and tariffs go up and so on, that would be damaging.”

In 1996 Albrow published his book “The Global Age: State and Society Beyond Modernity”, which examined the challenges facing the modern world as it stood on the edge of a new era that challenged the concept of nation states and the role of modernity.

Twenty years later and Albrow’s work seems to have been an early account of the tensions of globalism and the challenges of the 21st century.

“The people who will suffer most, clearly is the British,” Albrow said.

“They will suffer because Brexit will represent a failure to recognize the realities of the world we live in – and if you fail to recognize realities you’re very confused.”

Albrow forecast a time of “great confusion” in British politics and daily life: “People will not have any clear idea of where Britain is in the world.”

Confusion would be built on a foundation of differing groups in society with very different views of what direction the future should take.

“The people who want Brexit were a coalition of completely different opposite viewers. One side of the Brexiters are saying, yes, let’s get out of the European Union and then we will go everywhere, we will trade everywhere, we will be free at last,” Albrow said.

These supporters of trade and free markets and global opportunities had backed Brexit alongside another group of people who were opposed to foreigners in general.

“There are people who voted for Brexit saying there are too many foreigners here, we don’t want all this immigration, look what they’re doing to this country. I can’t walk through the streets in my town and see a white person.”

Albrow said these people and the people who want a global market are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. “There will be huge confusion after Brexit because you will have left, right, little Englanders, globalizers all facing each other without any clear direction for the country at all.”

“So all I can say is after a no-deal Brexit, there will be utter confusion. The only thing I think which can solve the present situation realistically is probably to resume the deal negotiated with the European Union. But the trouble is the deal suits no one.”

The exit of one of the EU’s largest economies, and one of its most significant political and diplomatic nations may not be a weakening of the EU but an opportunity for it.

Albrow said: “It could encourage the EU to become stronger, more integrated, and recognize that it does have weaknesses and that it needs to coordinate itself better.

“I think it’s fair to say that the British government wants the European Union to be strong. It’s in no one’s interest for the Union to be weak. So if all sides agree that it is a win-win situation, if Britain and the EU can agree, the EU will be stronger. That’s one possibility.”

On the other hand, he added, there is the possibility – and everyone must be afraid of this – that the same forces which led Britain to leave will encourage others in the EU to leave. And there are several countries where there are anti-EU, anti-globalization, anti-establishment movements.