Brexit turmoil will reach Florida’s shores

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage, rallies supporters of the Brexit vote.
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage, rallies supporters of the Brexit vote. Getty Images

Even to a casual observer — which most of us in the United States are — it’s clear that Brexit is a hot mess.

A deal outlining the terms of the Britain’s exit from the European Union negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May is terribly unpopular. It might not have enough support to pass a crucial vote in the U.K. Parliament on Tuesday.

If Parliament rejects the deal, no good path forward is evident. The British government would have only 21 days to come up with a plan of action under the EU Withdrawal Act.

Americans might wonder if this even matters to them. The holidays are upon us! Should we care what happens across the Atlantic on Tuesday and beyond?

The answer most certainly is yes.

Britain’s exit from the European Union — the result of a surprise vote on a referendum in the summer of 2016 that presaged electoral shocks yet to come — will be enormously consequential. It will affect global trade, the value of currency and stock markets.

The messier the exit is, the messier the consequences. And Florida will feel those consequences.

Our tourism and real estate markets are expected to take significant hits if Brexit goes through. Economic growth in Britain has slowed since the Brexit vote, and the ongoing uncertainty over the eventual outcome isn’t helping get things back on track.

Lower consumer confidence and a sluggish economy means fewer trips by Brits to Florida (and more trips by Americans to Great Britain, drawing potential visitors away) and less interest in investing in Florida real estate. The tourism hit could be significant. British tourists make up about 40 percent of Florida’s European visitors and 15 percent of all overseas visitors, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

When it comes to trade, businesses trying to export to Great Britain will likely face more turmoil than those importing from there because Brexit has strengthened the dollar against the British pound, making exports more expensive.

The worst possible outcome — for Britain, the EU, the United States and Florida — would be if no deal is agreed to and Britain is forced into what’s known as a “hard Brexit,” a severing from the European Union with none of the details of how trade, travel and other logistics will be handled moving forward.

That would lead to incredible turmoil and confusion. The government could try to renegotiate a more favorable deal with the EU, but officials there say that isn’t likely. Meanwhile, the Trump administration would have to figure out new trade deals with the U.K., and its track record on trade with China hardly instills confidence that it is up to the task.

One idea gaining some traction is a new referendum in the hope that British voters have changed their minds since 2016. Polls don’t show a public eager for that, though, and the outcome would be uncertain.

Canceling Brexit would be good news here. Britain’s withdrawal calls into question the long-term fate of the European Union itself, especially as other stress fractures become evident. The EU has proved itself a stabilizing force on the international landscape that maintains peace and strengthens some of America’s staunchest allies.

Whatever happens, Americans need to pay attention.