Roundtable Discussion on Brexit and its Impact on the European Union: Implications for India
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Nearly four years after holding the fateful referendum to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom eventually ceased to be an EU member on 31 January 2020. The country, however, would remain a part of the Customs Union till the culmination of the transition phase in December 2020. During this transition phase several existing arrangements including freedom of movement, cross-border travel and personal rights of citizens would continue post which the UK is expected to introduce a new immigration policy. This implies that new arrangements for trade, customs, travel and regulation with the EU and the rest of the world would have to be worked out in this period. To address the changed dynamic post Brexit as well as its impact on the EU, the Vivekananda International Foundation organised a roundtable discussion on March 9. Former diplomats, with experience in one or more EU member countries participated in the brainstorming session and highlighted the key issues surrounding Brexit and its overall implications, including those for India.

The discussants agreed that with the exit of the UK, the EU would lose a sizeable share of its economy. The exit would also alter the internal balance of power and influence among the remaining member states with the onus falling back on Germany and France. Thus, a lot would depend on France and Germany getting their ‘act together’. But, as the discussants observed, huge economic gaps as well as the divergences in the political and security outlook of their respective leadership cast certain impediments in this direction. In addition, the central preoccupation in these countries appears to be domestic especially in light of the ongoing political turmoil in Germany. More importantly, the bid for a renewed Franco-German leadership would not go unchallenged. In this respect, challenge from Visegrad countries was outlined. Other important factors relating to the functioning of EU including the role of Italy, transatlantic, partnership, relations with Russia as well as the China factor were also deliberated upon.

With respect to Brexit’s impact on India, the discussants observed that the status quo in India-EU relationship would continue. There was a broad consensus that Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiations would get an impetus but a serious progress was unlikely given the absence of a ‘real interest’. In addition, any positive development would equally depend on the performance of the Indian economy and the extent to which the country was open to future investments.

Overall, the discussants opined that the next 2-3 years presented an uncertain picture and a lot would depend on the sagacity of leadership in France Germany and the UK. With the exit of the UKL, the EU would have to lay out new strategies on several issues. This preoccupation with internal issues would have a further adverse impact on the EU’s role as a global player.

Event Date 
March 9, 2020

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