Brexit Makes Waves Across the European Union and Beyond

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The Process of Withdrawing from the EU
Fact box

The result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will be final. The Government would have a democratic duty to give effect to the electorate’s decision. The Prime Minister made clear to the House of Commons that “if the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger Article 50 of the Treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away”.

The rules for exit are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is the only lawful route available to withdraw from the EU.

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU would mean unravelling all the rights and obligations – from access to the Single Market, to structural funds for poorer regions, to joint action on sanctions – that the UK has acquired both during our accession to the EU and over our 40 year membership. As well as negotiating its withdrawal, the UK would also want to negotiate its post-exit arrangements with the EU.

If the UK was to reach the end of the two year period specified by Article 50 without having reached an agreement, and if any of the 27 other Member States vetoed an extension of this period, this would lead to the UK leaving the EU with no immediate replacement agreed, without any protection under EU law for the rights of UK business to trade on a preferential basis with Europe or the EU’s free trade agreement partners, UK citizens to live and work in Europe, or UK travellers to move about freely in Europe.

Regular EU decision-making would continue while we negotiated to leave. Our vote to leave, and the withdrawal negotiations themselves, would have an impact on our ability to affect the EU’s decision-making. But we would be bound by new EU legislation up to the moment we left.

Anne-Marie Martin

About Anne-Marie Martin

Anne-Marie Martin is the chief executive of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE). Her previous role was as CEO of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce, from 2001-2012. She has served in a voluntary capacity as a member of the Board and then Vice-Chair of The Princess Margareta of Romanian Trust in the UK and as a member of the Board of the Princess Margareta of Romania Foundation in Romania. She is a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and was awarded the King Mihai I of Romania Medal for Loyalty in 2008 for services to British Romanian bilateral trade, investment, cultural and charitable activities.

When the UK’s population voted on whether to remain within the European Union in June 2016, the result was neither expected nor welcomed by chambers of commerce and business associations that are members of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE). In fact, just a few months earlier we polled them on whether they believed it to be in the UK’s best interests to leave the EU and 89 per cent were in favour of ‘remain’.

Now that Britain has to negotiate a Brexit deal, COBCOE has embarked on a strategy to bring businesses across Europe together, to develop a common voice in defining the market model we need. The UK Government will need all the support available to formulate its Brexit strategy and has called upon business associations in the UK to assist. However, we believe that negotiations must include a European dimension.

We have been building relationships since 1973, when COBCOE was founded, and we have to continue doing that, not only within the European Union but also further afield as we have members from countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Macedonia and even Azerbaijan. Our presence in the UK, and across Europe, means that we can help shape future trade deals that will benefit not only UK business, but also Europe-wide business, helping ensure a stable economic outcome for the global economy.

Business across the continent is closely interconnected by global and regional supply chains. These multi-lateral webs, moving goods and services are natural allies in shaping post-Brexit market access and have significant sway with their home governments to counter any politically dogmatic positions in Brussels.

The aim is to implement a pragmatic business approach that is driven by British chambers of commerce and the business community. Governments across Europe have already been in contact with our members to discuss Brexit.

This will enable us to establish and define the crucial needs of sectors and national economies, and then to compare them, on a European scale in order to highlight any areas of commonality and conflict. This will be important in strategic areas of the UK economy where commonalities exist with other economies in the EU, and where discrimination against the UK post-Brexit could impact the economies of other economies negatively.

To give an example; industries across the EU (especially outside the Eurozone) may suffer significant damage if they cannot access the London capital markets because of the scale of the residual European markets in France and Germany.

We intend to galvanise business organisations in the UK and Europe to work together in order to ensure continued trade. This will offer the economic stability to move forward and to support the wide-ranging SME sector base, in partnership with the larger corporate member base. We also aim to draw up a template market model, within a wider European network and inside the EU that can form the basis of Brexit negotiations and that can ensure a continued influence in the much needed EU reform agenda as well as creating a framework for reform.

It is important to continue to build on the essential work of the Evolving Europe project in researching and developing a business-driven strategy for reform, as well as maintaining a position of influence that ensures EU competitiveness and a continued ease of doing business. This is for the good of the wider business community, not just within the European Union but also beyond, for example, in Ukraine, Macedonia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


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