Would the EU have us back?

Given the close result of the EU referendum there was always going to be calls for a second vote.

Theresa May has thus far rejected any rerun, citing that a second referendum would be a gross betrayal of democracy and public trust. Before the referendum took place, both sides agreed that whatever the result, that result would be final. Britain will leave the EU on the 29th March 2019.

The only question that remains is what Brexit is going to look like? Theresa May has one vision and the EU has another. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson dislikes both. His hopes of the top job seem to be diminishing by the day. His weekend references to Britain putting on a suicide vest and giving the EU the detonator crossed a line for many Conservative MPs.

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There is no doubt that Boris Johnson prides himself on being a great orator, and one quote of his does seem to be particularly relevant at the moment: "My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters." All very Churchillian but highly aspirational.

We think everyone can agree with him on that point; he does seem to lurch from one self-inflicted disaster to another. If it isn’t his comments made in his Sunday column, it is his private life stealing the front pages. It is for this reason that we think the chances of Boris Johnson becoming the next Prime Minister are slim. Having said that, this does not mean Theresa May will be able to get her Chequers plan through Parliament.

Within most offices up and down the UK, opinions on the benefits and disadvantages of withdrawing from the EU are discouraged in the pursuit of a tranquil environment. However, opinions are not fact, and the true benefits/disadvantages will not be known until we leave, most likely not until many years later. If the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, then perhaps we haven’t heard the last of Brexit and we could face another vote on perhaps re-joining the EU in ten years’ time.

If this is the case, then there are two questions that we believe need answering. Would the EU have us back? And secondly, would the UK meet the requirements for joining the EU? Given the increasingly acrimonious divorce, there is a fair chance that the EU may not want to take us back.

However, should they agree, then it is unlikely that our membership would look anything like that which we currently have. For example, we may be forced to adopt the Euro, and any rebate that is currently enjoyed would be consigned to the history books. After all, if we are looking to re-join the EU it would in all likelihood be from a position of weakness.

The Maastricht criteria dictate the economic conditions for joining the EU. One potential stumbling block is the requirement that the ratio of gross government debt to GDP must not exceed 60 per cent at the end of the preceding fiscal year. Currently our debt stands at £1.78 trillion, or 86.58 per cent of GDP. To put it another way, evenly split amongst the 65 million people living in the UK, it stands at over £27,000 per person. This figure is even higher if the debt is only distributed amongst taxpayers.

We may find that this debt gets even higher, especially if Labour is successful in the next election. Their plans to nationalise everything from railways to Royal Mail will only increase our percentage debt to GDP. However, should economic turmoil ensue after Brexit, then we would expect it to grow under any government as they try and spend their way to a stronger economy.

That is not to say the EU will be a Union we want to re-join several years down the line. Several EU economies are looking increasingly precarious and given that a nationalist far right party has managed to demonstrably increase its share of the vote in Sweden, some would say that across Europe, people are becoming more discontented with EU membership.