The United Kingdom voted last week in favor of a Brexit -- that is, to separate from the European Union. The financial and economic implications of the decision are substantial, not only for the U.K. but also for the global economy.
In this clip from the Industry Focus: Financials podcast, The Motley Fool's Gaby Lapera and John Maxfield discuss what could happen given that the U.K. might have to renegotiate its trade deals with countries on the European continent, as well as the impact on its economy from a policy that restricts immigration.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on June 27, 2016.
Gaby Lapera: Like I was saying earlier, part of being in the European Union, it comes with a lot of economic benefits. Attached to that labor is that we don't really know what's going to happen. Great Britain is going to have to renegotiate all these things with the E.U. Who knows? Do they still have free passage between the European Union and the U.K.? Can people who are from the U.K. work anywhere else in Europe and vice versa? We don't know. We don't know what's going to happen.
John Maxfield: Yeah. Here's what's interesting. If you look at the coverage since the Brexit vote came through, one of the things that we have noticed is that all of the main supporters are now backing off of all of the promises that they made in order to convince their constituents to vote in favor of it.
Let me give you some examples. Boris Johnson. He was the former London mayor who's really been the front man for the whole Brexit movement. He has now come out, and he's basically been like totally off the scene since the vote came out. This is the leader of the movement who's basically receded behind the curtain since all this happened. He has basically come out and said, OK wait, wait, wait. The one thing he has said is that there's really no hurry to invoke the articles that would then start the process of the United Kingdom leaving.
You think about that for a second. The biggest advocate for this push is now saying maybe we should slow down on this. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. That's the implications that maybe he's thinking it wasn't actually such a good idea.
The other thing to keep in mind is that ... Another claim that they've backed off from is that they're saying "No, no, no, we're actually not going to stop immigration coming into the country. It may just slow it a little bit." Now they're backing off on that.
Lapera: What's really interesting about that is I looked it up before we came on the show. The total fertility rate in the U.K. in 2014 was 1.83. That means the population isn't replacing itself. For the population to replace itself, your total fertility rate has to be two. You have two kids and when the two parents die they take their place in the population. Their population isn't replacing itself and you have to remember that this includes births to women who have immigrated to the U.K. and this also includes women who are U.K. citizens but gave birth to children outside the country, which was around 27% of those births. Immigration is really propping up the U.K. population.
Maxfield: Yeah. Which props up its economy, right? You brought this point up earlier. Being a part of a free trade zone is really important. Let's say ... British tea. You have British tea it's going to earn really low margins as you export that. The European countries are major trading partners for the United Kingdom. Your margins on tea are going to be extremely slim, because that's such a competitive market and because it's a commodity. As soon as you start entering frictions into that trade process, those frictions insert costs into that. In a commoditized market where your margins are already really slim, you're going to impact some of those exporters.
Presumably if trade barriers were to come up as a result of all of this, you are going to also hurt whatever exports Britain is exporting to the European continent.
There's just one more thing I want to point out now, that we're really learning that a lot of these rationales weren't really grounded. In fact, one of the most picturesque pieces of the whole Brexit movement was this bus, that traveled all over the United Kingdom.
Lapera: The Boris Johnson bus.
Maxfield: Right. The Boris Johnson bus. On the side of the bus, it claimed that the United Kingdom was sending 350 million pounds a week to the European Union, basically subsidizing the European Union. It turns out that the European Union was actually kicking back about 200 million pounds a week in rebates back to the United Kingdom. The net difference is only 150 million pounds on a weekly basis. Then you have to factor in the value of being a part of the European Union, which among other things, you have the reduction in trade friction, which helps the British economy. On top of that because all these countries are now basically coexisting, nobody has to spend all this money on their militaries because they're all together.
Maxfield: It saves all this money for them. Once you just really dig into the rationales for leaving, you can start to understand why the voters are having buyer's remorse.