Dec 11, 2018 - 1:15pm

Quick Take: Your Primer on Brexit – and Why It Matters to U.S. Businesses

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The Union Jack, flies in front of Big Ben, in London, U.K.
The Union Jack, flies in front of Big Ben, in London, U.K.

Fill me in: 

After several months of tense negotiations, the United Kingdom and the European Union reached a Brexit deal in late November. The UK Parliament was scheduled to vote on the deal this week, but faced with an all-too-likely defeat, Prime Minister Theresa May opted to postpone the vote. Now, she’s heading back to Brussels to try to win additional clarifications and changes to the agreement, though EU leaders have said they’re not willing to renegotiate the deal.

Why does it matter? 

Time is running short. The UK’s official leave date is March 29, 2019. A withdrawal agreement and a framework for the future relationship need to be adopted well ahead of that date in order to provide clarity to businesses and governments and to ensure all parties have the time they need to adjust.

What’s at stake? 

The economic ties between the U.S. and the UK are deep. In fact, the U.S. and the UK are each other’s single largest foreign investors, and every U.S. state has jobs that are connected to – or originated from – an investment by a British company. Plus, thousands of American companies have invested in the UK with the express intent of accessing the EU market.

Numbers to know: 

U.S. companies employ nearly 1.4 million Britons, and British companies employ more than 1.1 million Americans in the U.S.

Our take:

Marjorie Chorlins, executive director of the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-UK Business Council: “Negotiating a Brexit deal was never going to be easy, but the closer we get to March 29 without a deal, the more problematic uncertainty becomes. At this moment, the only thing companies can to do is to prepare for every eventuality, which takes considerable time and money. We hope leaders from the UK and the EU can quickly achieve an outcome that will provide the certainty and clarity needed by consumers, workers, governments, and businesses alike. Every effort must be made to avoid a no-deal scenario.”

What we’ve been up to: 

The U.S.-UK Business Council recently led a delegation of 14 companies to Brussels and London in order to convey the need for clarity and certainty in the UK-EU relationship.

Now what? 

Anyone who claims to know the path forward is bluffing. The situation has been clouded with uncertainty from the start, and the same is true now. Prime Minister May could be forced to resign, or she may be forced out by a vote of no confidence, which could trigger a general election. A second referendum, or even a decision by the UK to revoke its Article 50 notification and stay in the EU, all remain real possibilities.

More reading:

  • Wall Street Journal: Anxious Businesses Make Plans for ‘No Deal’ Brexit
  • Bloomberg: May Seeks EU Help to Unlock Parliament Impasse: Brexit Update
  • POLITICO: UK can Withdraw Brexit Notification, ECJ Rules

About the Author

About the Author