A leading EU expert has argued that Brexit has made it less likely that other countries will leave the Union.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, believes the protracted debate and the problems encountered by Theresa May in gathering support for her deal will have “put off” other countries from following suit.
Speaking on Twitter Mr Grant said: “The big lesson of Brexit is that any country trying to leave will find the process much more complicated, difficult and expensive than anyone imagined.
“The Brits have probably inoculated others against trying to pursue the same path for at least a generation.”
Mr Grant’s theory is in line with figures who have played a leading role in Britain’s Brexit process but at odds with a cast of international politicians.
In 2017 US President Donald Trump said the UK’s departure from the EU would be a ‘great thing’ and that other countries would be ‘smart’ to emulate Brexit.
However, then Brexit secretary David Davis said in July the same year that Britain was “a very different country” to the rest of the EU and argued that the UK had decided to leave because of its unique “global reach” – downplaying fears of a ‘domino effect’.
Speaking to the European Commission in July 2017 Mr Davis said: “At the beginning [of the negotiations] you’ll remember we had a slightly difficult month or two where there were talks of punishment and Lord knows what else.
“The bit that was not entirely an emotional response was the feeling amongst some members of the Commission in particular that they didn’t want to allow us to appear to profit from this decision in case it was an incentive for somebody else.
“I’ve always viewed that as a fear without foundation. I don’t think anybody is likely to follow us down this route, we’re a very different country. The nearest to us, I guess, in terms of global reach is probably France. It’s not going to bail out of Europe. So I think that fear has resiled a bit.
“However there are no doubts some members of the Commission probably would like this to be a difficult process for us. But against that you have got 27 member states who have been very, very disciplined about maintaining the line, staying within the solidarity of the 27 but who do have their own strong interests.”
Mr Grant argued the difficulties faced by Mrs May over unexpected difficulties, such as the Irish border, will prove a strong deterrent to other Eurosceptic countries.
He said: “Another country leaving the EU won’t have to grapple with the Irish border. But once May had agreed in Dec 17 that, for the sake of the peace process, there shouldn’t be a hard border between NI & the Republic, NI had to have some sort of regulatory union with the EU.”