Brexit: Only 16% of experts believe Theresa May will secure future trade deal before deadline

Exclusive: Survey of some the country’s most prominent academics finds that 42 per cent think a no-deal Brexit is the most likely scenario

Tuesday 13 November 2018 21:52 GMT
Fears of a no-deal Brexit remain high
Fears of a no-deal Brexit remain high (iStock)

Only 16 per cent of some of the country’s leading Brexit experts believe that Theresa May will be able to secure a future trade deal with the European Union (EU) before the December 2020 deadline.

The Brexit policy panel, a cross-disciplinary group of some of the 100 most prominent academics on the issue, asked a range of questions in order to forecast where Britain is heading once it leaves the bloc.

Surveyed by the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, the panel puts the chance of no-deal at 42 per cent.

The group was questioned on if and when the UK will leave the EU; how Brexit will affect British politics; and what the UK's relationship with the EU is likely to look like in the future.

They were also polled on the likelihood of a withdrawal agreement being secured, before Downing Street confirmed EU and UK negotiators had finally reached a settlement in Brussels.

Cabinet members were called in to discuss the draft withdrawal agreement text produced by the British and European negotiating teams.

Prior to the announcement about the settlement, only 11 per cent of the experts believed a deal would be made this month.

Once negotiations on the withdrawal agreement come to an end, the focus of the negotiations will then turn to Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

A deadline of December 2020 has been set for a trade deal to be completed, but the majority of those polled did not believe this is was achievable.

Professor Anand Menon, the director of the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, said future trade deals take significantly longer to negotiate than the amount of time the government has currently set aside.

“The time we have is extremely limited because the EU is not going to start negotiating properly until they have a new European Commission in place, which won’t happen until November,” he told The Independent.

“We currently have less than 21 months, which regardless of other factors, would still likely not be long enough."

The survey also found that 70 per cent of experts believed that foreign direct investment (FDI) to the UK from outside of the EU would fall in the next five years.

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FDI to the UK has been in decline since reaching a peak in 2015 and has already fallen by 19 per cent since the Brexit vote, according to the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

“The British market is less attractive when it is a market of 65 million and not a market of 500 million,” Prof Menon said.

“You only have to look at what the Japanese ambassador has been saying, about how investment from Japan was predicated on the assumption that the UK was a gateway to Europe.”

Alan Wager, research associate at the UK in a Changing Europe, added that falls in FDI would mean "there will probably be fewer jobs in the economy".

The results were however more positive about Ms May’s chances of getting a withdrawal agreement passed through parliament, assuming she manages to get a deal.

A total of 57 per cent of respondents said they believed the deal would get through the House of Commons.

“The government’s success could be pinned on how effectively they portray the issue as the deal versus no deal. It is also important to consider that MPs may want to move on from this issue,” Prof Menon said.

“The EU and Theresa May will be on the same side for this, Sterling is likely to rally and businesses will support the agreement. It is difficult to predict how MPs will react in a post-deal world”.

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