Britain bows out of the EU but at what cost?

The economy is now in danger of falling behind.

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Published: Wed 29 Jan 2020, 9:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 Jan 2020, 11:02 PM

Britain will be on its own again. Brexit will happen, finally. The partnership of more than 46 years with what was once known as the European Economic Community is being annulled to honour the referendum result of June 2016. The United Kingdom is set to sail into choppy waters with a belief that future growth would be driven by new partnerships. Buoyant emerging markets, the British government believes, could be a better bet than trade with European economies. And, of course, this divorce from the European Union will restrict the free flow of immigrants who had ostensibly taken away jobs from local communities. What's rather surprising at this point in time is the confidence the political leadership under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is showing in their ability to strike better deals and trade pacts. Bilateral deals work fine, but it takes years, sometimes decades, to be realised. The European Economic Community was set up in 1958. It took the UK almost 15 years to join the bloc in 1973 - a time when the UK was referred as the 'sick man of Europe'. Its entry into the bloc has been symbiotic, as opposed to what the British leadership would like their people to believe.

In the promise of greater control over its destiny, the UK is leaving behind a union that has for many decades helped it prosper and grow. The British economy and businesses have become more competitive. The country gained tremendously at the time of joining the union in the 1970s and then again experienced a spurt in economic activity in the nineties when the single-goods market was opened. The UK later became more prosperous than many European nations, and is today competing fiercely with heavyweights like Germany and France. The economy is now in danger of falling behind. The problems it faces are domestic, lack of investments for instance. The annual GDP growth rate has slowed to a nine-and-a-half-year low. The uncertainty and a no-deal Brexit scenario have made businesses nervous. A flight of capital and human resource had been taking place since the referendum results were announced. The future looks bleak, and it is up to the leaders to find a way out and ensure this new insularity works in the people's favour and not against them.

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