by Xinhua writer Jin
Jing LONDON (Xinhua) -- On March 29,
the date on which Britain was originally due to leave the
European Union (EU), a picture went viral on the British social
In an apparent sarcastic tone, Britain’s Royal
Mail apologized in its iconic red letter notice: "Sorry, we
tried to deliver your Brexit. You were lied to and your Brexit
could not be delivered to you."
In the latest turn of events, the British parliament on
Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard-brokered
withdrawal agreement, for a third time since January, prompting
speculation that Britain will have to request a lengthy delay of
Brexit to avoid a catastrophic no-deal.
But analysts warn that much harm has already been done to
both sides of the English Channel as uncertainty drags on.
The City of London, one of the world’s top financial hubs and
also a powerhouse of the British economy, stands at the
forefront to suffer.
According to New Financial, a London-based capital markets
think tank, a total of 275 financial firms are known to have
moved or are moving part of their business from Britain to the
EU continent to prepare for Brexit.
"These moves are the inevitable consequence of Brexit ...
"This shift will reduce Britain’s influence in the banking
and finance industry both in Europe and in the world," said the
report entitled "Brexit & the City — the impact so far" released
earlier this month.
Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London, told Xinhua
that uncertainty is indeed causing serious concerns to the City
even though the relocation is still a small percentage at the
moment considering the 2.2 million people employed by the
financial services in Britain.
"The whole process of Brexit has been frustrating from a
business perspective and if there’s one thing that business
hates, it’s uncertainty," Estlin said.
Meanwhile, manufacturing businesses in Britain, unsure of the
trade relations with the EU and the rest of the world, started
pulling out of the country.
In February, Japanese carmaker Honda announced the planned
closure of its Swindon plant by 2021, threatening at least 7,000
jobs. Many believe Brexit was one of the key factors behind the
In late February, the British government warned of disastrous
consequences in case of a no-deal Brexit amid rising food prices
and a weakened British economy.
Adding to the pains will be the diminished role of Britain
UNA-UK, a pro-UN group said in a recent report that Britain’s
standing at the UN will be weakened after Brexit because British
diplomats "are less able to align their campaigns in the
Security Council and the General Assembly with the influence of
their colleagues in Brussels."
Martin Albrow, a pioneer British scholar in the study of
globalization, told Xinhua that the role of Britain on the
global stage will be "much diminished" after Brexit.
May’s idea of a "Global Britain" is "so limited" and focused
much on trade rather than leading global efforts to tackle
global challenges like climate change and nuclear disarmament as
a major part of multilateral institutions, Albrow said.
"A global Britain would handle global issues," Albrow said,
adding that Britain has yet to figure out what a "Global
Britain" looks like.
With the exit of Britain, EU’s second largest economy, a key
diplomatic and military power, Europe’s global clout and the
future of the European integration project have been plunged
Former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel
wrote in a recent article that not only the British population,
but Europe as a whole, will suffer the consequences of Brexit.
"After Brexit, we may find ourselves in a more perilous
state, because the world will look at Europeans as even greater
weaklings. Unable to get our own act together and frame our
interests, our efforts to convince others of our worldview
appears quixotic," he wrote.
As the world’s political and economic balance of power is
shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Europe is facing
risks of being further sidelined, he said.
"With the possible exception of climate policies, Europe is
already a spectator on most global conflicts and issues," he
Kristin Archick, author of the book "After Brexit, A
Diminished or Enhanced EU," said the departure of Britain will
weaken EU’s ability to tackle more persistent challenges such as
a sluggish economy and high unemployment, immigration and
Archick argues that Brexit may seriously undermine the EU
Even though most EU countries may be too small to contemplate
departure, Brexit could prompt others to demand special
memberships or policy opt-outs.
The rise of anti-EU parties in France and the Netherlands
would also put EU under further risk of being less integrated as
member states would have little appetite for ceding right to "EU
institutions and Brussels bureaucracy viewed as out of touch
with ordinary citizens," he added.
Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party (EPP)
group, called on the Europeans to "keep the EU together" which
he considers among the biggest challenges for the bloc.
The EU must understand that only a united Europe, together
with one voice, can have critical mass of power to bring
European points of view on the global stage, said Weber, who is
also the EPP’s candidate for European Commission presidency in
the upcoming European Parliament elections this May.
"We have to keep the EU together. We see Brexit happening.
"That’s why we strive for the fundamental principle that
compromise is good thing for Europe," said Weber.
On the side of a residential facade in the British port town
of Dover, a mural by Banksys, a famed anonymous street artist,
shows a glistening star being chipped off the EU flag by a metal
worker teetering on the top of a ladder.
Observers say Brexit did not come as a surprise.
Britain has remained one of the EU’s most skeptical members
since it joined the European Economic Community (as it then was)
on Jan. 1, 1973.
A referendum was held in 1975 on whether Britain should
remain part of the Community with a 67-percent vote in favor of
Even today, Britain is not a member of the eurozone and
Schengen area of free movement, showing its serious reservations
about the EU project.
"One should stress that the tension with Europe is not a new
thing at all, it has existed all the way back," said British
Adding fuel to the anti-EU sentiment was unbalanced
globalization, and immigration from eastern Europe, said Albrow,
adding that free market capitalism since the 1980s has led to a
soaring gap of inequality and people working in the declining
industries are feeling left behind.
The Brexit referendum was largely driven by the rise of
populism rooted in a wave of anti-establishment anger and the
desire to regain control of immigration, and reclaim national
sovereignty from international institutions, he said.
However, Albrow pointed out the exit of Britain may not
necessarily mean a weakening of the EU but an opportunity to
"I think it’s fair to say that the British government wants
the European Union to be strong.
"It’s in no one’s interest for the Union to be weak," he
"It (Brexit) could encourage the EU to become stronger, more
integrated, and recognize that it does have weaknesses and that
it needs to coordinate itself better," he said. Enditem
(Gu Zhenqiu, Gui Tao, Wang Huihui, Yang Xiaojing, Zhang
Dailei, Liang Xizhi in London,
Zhai Wei, Tian Dongdong in Brussels, Ren Ke in Berlin
contributed to this story)