While no one is predicting that Britain will seek to rejoin the EU, political analysts said that the sunday time The report, along with grim economic data and rising popular sentiment against Brexit, would open a new chapter in Britain’s quest for a new relationship with the rest of Europe. Where that would lead, they warned, was impossible to predict.
“A genie has been let out of the bottle,” said Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. “What is starting is a much more fundamental debate. What is the long-term equilibrium between the two sides? Is it Switzerland? Is it Norway? he added, referring to a country that has even closer ties to the EU than Switzerland, also without being a member.
“You can’t really address the economic problems that the UK has without addressing and improving the trade relationship with the EU,” Rahman said. “Otherwise, you’re just playing around with the edges.”
It is no coincidence that public sentiment began to darken Brexit a year ago, when Britain suffered from a severe shortage of lorry drivers, leading to delayed fuel deliveries to filling stations and long lines of motorists. That ended a honeymoon earlier in the year, when the government dubiously claimed that its rapid approval and launch of a COVID-19 vaccine was due to Brexit.
Since then, Britain has been plagued by double-digit inflation, rising interest rates and a recession that the Bank of England recently warned could last two years. Among the Group of 7 advanced countries, Britain is the only one with a smaller economy now than it was before the pandemic started. It was recently overtaken by India as the world’s fifth largest economy.
“We can discuss the extent to which Brexit is responsible for Britain’s economic problems,” said John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and a leading British poll expert. “But it’s very difficult to convince people that a wonderful economic nirvana is just around the corner because of Brexit.”
This article originally appeared on The New York Times.