Significant political and economic uncertainty characterises the Brexit process one year after the UK triggered Article 50, reveals a new report by the academic group, The UK in a Changing Europe, which includes University of Birmingham Researchers.

The researchers suggest that across several policy sectors, a lack of clear direction is affecting the ability to plan for the future. 

Birmingham research in one area of the report on the regulation of drugs and medical equipment has found there is still no clear position.

Professor Jean McHale, Director of the Centre for Health Law, Science and Policy, University of Birmingham said:

‘One year on since Article 50 the position in relation to the regulation of pharmaceuticals remains very uncertain.

‘Without a specific sectoral agreement, something the EU appears to have ruled out post Brexit, the UK will be excluded from things like EU centralised drug approval processes, enabling medicines to have automatic recognition across the EU.

‘Also, pharmacovigilance networks which are important for patient safety in relation to drugs and medical devices and EU cross border trials electronic databases.

‘While the UK has talked about associate membership of the European Medicines Agency, such memberships haven't been given in the past and may not be in accordance with EU law.’

More broadly, the report, Article 50 one year on, suggests that the situation is far from stable. It finds demographic changes are pulling public opinion in a pro-European direction.

By 2021, the electorate will be 52:48 Remain and by 2026 it will be 54:46 Remain as a result of rising education, rising ethnic diversity and generational change.

Public opinion about immigration appears to have shifted: it is viewed more positively and as a much less salient issue, especially as the cabinet and country have moved in a more liberal direction.

However, the report finds there is no clear vision of immigration policy after Brexit, let alone any concrete policy decisions.

When it comes to economics, the report finds:

  • GDP growth in the UK was, on average, 0.6% higher than the other G7 members before the referendum. In 2017 it was 0.9% lower
  • Taking countries that matched UK growth prior to the referendum, academics* found that by the third quarter of 2017 UK GDP was approximately 1.3% lower than it would have been if the UK had not voted for Brexit
  • Financial markets have lowered their expectations for future UK economic performance which is evidenced by the pound remaining 10% below its pre-referendum value
  • The Brexit vote has increased inflation by 1.7 percentage points in the year following the referendum.

In Northern Ireland there are fears that the problems facing the island of Ireland are either misunderstood by London or wilfully ignored. The UK has not managed to provide the necessary detail to reconcile the need to avoid a hard border and leaving the single market and customs union.

In aviation, the stakes in the negotiations are high, with the most likely scenario being that market access will be lost by both sides and UK industry and consumers will be hit especially hard.

In agriculture even a relatively ‘soft’ Brexit would lead to small producer price changes. Cereal and dairy farms will be relatively unaffected by post-Brexit changes to prices, while many beef and sheep farms will be more vulnerable.

Legally, while the Withdrawal Bill symbolises the fact that the UK is ‘taking back control,’ transition means the UK will remain bound by its EU obligations while lacking voting rights.

Professor Anand Menon, Director, The UK in a Changing Europe, said:

‘Uncertainty reigns. This is having negative consequences for business and key sectors including agriculture, fisheries, aviation, the environment, higher education, the health service and financial services.

‘In politics, the lack of an overall Conservative majority has created political instability and unpredictability.’

The report is being released on the day of The UK in a Changing Europe’s major conference – Article 50: one year on, which features high profile politicians, civil servants, economists, journalists and academics.

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