What Will the Special Relationship Look Like After Brexit?

While you might expect more pomp and circumstance surrounding such a momentous occasion, the triggering of article 50 has been a largely stale affair. Despite attempts from news outlets to jazz it up with countdown clocks and interviews from all corners of the political spectrum, in reality, triggering article 50 is the least interesting part of the process. So, don’t worry about remembering where you were when article 50 was triggered. You might, however, want to pay attention to the events that transpire over the coming months.

As Britain begins its messy divorce from the European Union, all eyes are on where their attention will lie when it comes to forging new relationships. With freedom of movement off the table, it would seem that Britain has no chance of having access to the EU’s coveted open market. This means Britain must begin the messy process of negotiating a trade deal with Europe or look further afield. With reports that the EU is pushing for the divorce proceedings to be finalised before we even get around to talking about trade, this could be a drawn-out process. Some have speculated that Britain might try to rekindle that “special relationship” with the United States, but Trump might prove to be a stick in the mud that stops this in its tracks.

After news broke out that Trump had been invited to address Parliament during his State Visit, protests erupted throughout the country. Petitions were signed, sides were taken, and even House Speaker, John Bercow was left apologising for taking a stance on what had become a deeply divisive issue. It’s difficult to imagine how Britain could strike a trade deal with a country if the population can’t stomach a visit from its head of state.

The special relationship between Britain and the USA is a complicated one, and it would seem it hasn’t been exercised much in recent years. What would a renewed special relationship even look like? Many are calling for easier immigration between the two countries and fewer barriers to trade. However, it is unclear at this stage if the Britain would remain an interesting prospect for the USA to trade with if access to the EU open market is lost.

Britain has long been considered the convenient and English-speaking gateway to Europe. Unfortunately, with many European countries now almost entirely bilingual, this isn’t really Britain’s USP anymore. However, a bilateral trade deal between Britain and the USA would be mutually beneficial, and this has been noted on several occasions. At present, over one million US jobs depend on British companies with their headquarters in the United States. Conversely, around 1.25 million people are employed by American companies in Britain. Nile Gardiner, director of the Heritage Foundation is optimistic that a trade deal could be reached in as few as 90 days following Britain’s departure from the EU.

While a trade deal might seem mutually beneficial, others aren’t quite so optimistic about the prospect. In order to reach a deal, both countries would have to agree on everything from labour law to food safety standards. At the moment, genetically modified foods are banned in Britain, but a trade deal would mean accepting food imports containing GM foods. Britain also has rules on growth hormones in animal products which would have to be relaxed in order to strike a deal. The biggest losers of all would undoubtedly be British farmers; after losing EU subsidies, they would then be forced to compete with heavily subsidised American food products.

Immigration is another touchy subject for both countries. Both recently held landmark votes in which the population voiced their desire to limit immigration. With the fate of EU nationals in Britain already in flux as many rush to secure EEA PR, and stringent quotas being placed on future immigration numbers, it’s difficult to see how Britain and the USA could reach a deal on immigration that would be satisfactory for both sides.