The Brexit crisis in Britain has been in the headlines this year so it was no surprise that a large audience packed the Legislative Council chamber at Queensland Parliament on March 26 to hear an expert panel explain this vexed and complicated issue.
This special event, Brexit: Deal or no Deal – Facts, Fallout and Future, was co-hosted by AIIA Queensland and the Australasian Study of Parliament Group – Queensland Chapter.
The Honourable Curtis Pitt MP, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly (Queensland) , spoke on the significance of parliamentary democracy, the process of political engagement, and discussion in the context of Brexit. The expert panel was then invited to open the discussion and offer their perspectives and insights.
Dr Joff Lelliot, who lectures in politics and public policy at the University of Queensland, provided an important context into the British political landscape surrounding Brexit. He described a changed political environment in the wake of the Brexit referendum turmoil as evidenced within the electorate, the major parties, and the operation of the parliament itself. While acknowledging the difficulties in finalising the Brexit negotiations, Dr Lelliot sees the outcome as a more powerful parliament, a retrenchment of party politics and the potential for a more effective and engaged parliamentary system.
Dr Sara McGaughey outlined the varying economic impacts and prospects for future UK trade. She describes varying models of possible trade relationships and detailed their likely economic and political trade-offs. The prospect of a no-deal Brexit threatens economic hardship , but the ongoing uncertainty of negotiations deters foreign direct investment and has slowed new exporter growth. Dr McGaughey, who is Professor of International Business at Griffith University, views this economic policy uncertainty as having immediate and long-term ramifications on business and sees the prospect of a no-deal Brexit as particularly damaging.
On the European perspective of Brexit, Dr Frank Mols observed that British indecision has resulted in European preparation for a no-deal Brexit, despite remaining open to negotiations. Similarly, the domestic fall-out of Brexit has diminished euro-scepticism and softened calls for a similar departure by Denmark. While there are considerable practical and economic implications of either a soft or hard Brexit, Dr Mols, who is a senior lecturer in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland, suggests these are symptoms of a greater erosion of trust in democracy and the expert moderation of politics.
The expert panel concluded the discussion by answering questions from the audience. They reiterated the importance of the parliamentary system, the polarising effect of Brexit rhetoric and the necessity of the UK to work with the EU.