Theresa May in Europe

Life after Brexit on the agenda at ST Global Outlook briefing

British PM Theresa May (left) with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. ST is holding a briefing on Aug 17 in which the outlook and impact of Brexit will be discussed, as well as Britain's economic prospects.
British PM Theresa May (left) with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. ST is holding a briefing on Aug 17 in which the outlook and impact of Brexit will be discussed, as well as Britain's economic prospects.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

It was exactly a month ago that Brexit was deemed unlikely. In her reports chronicling the mood before the June 23 referendum, Straits Times assistant foreign editor Tan Dawn Wei recalls parsing an array of opinion polls that said Britain would stay true to Brussels.

"I was cautiously optimistic that the Remain camp would win by a sliver. It's what I was hearing all around me in London, from friends, from polls, from the headlines in the media," she says.

A month later, Britain is now thick in the middle of managing the aftermath of Brexit, trying to decide how to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union it spurned, mindful that the grouping remains its most important export market.

What looms next is a poser that makes ST foreign editor Audrey Quek wonder what it's like to be in British Prime Minister Theresa May's leopard print shoes.

Ms Quek will lead a discussion on the outlook and impact of Brexit on Aug 17, along with Ms Tan and Mr Richard Jerram, chief economist of the Bank of Singapore, at the third quarterly briefing of The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum.

Titled The Road Ahead: Life After Brexit For Britain And The EU, the event will be held in partnership with sponsor OCBC Premier Banking.

Mr Jerram will discuss economic prospects for Britain and what might be in store for Singapore holidaymakers, students and property investors evaluating the country. Hint: Some good opportunities although Britain might be in for a jolt.

Ms Quek will offer her take on what awaits Mrs May, now that she is at the wheel after the unexpected twists in the leadership battle that followed Brexit.

"As the driver, Mrs May has first to decide when to start the car," she says. That seemingly simple question of when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU is but one of the many contentious issues facing Britain and its continental partners, she adds.

The discussion will also highlight factors far beyond Mrs May's control, including the way next year's elections in Germany and France will influence the separation negotiations.

As with the Brexit vote, expect the unexpected, and be prepared for a long, bumpy ride, not the least because nobody has a road map, says Ms Quek.

Ms Tan will share her observations covering a divided Britain, shaped by living in London which voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, and from her travels to rebellious Brexit outposts like Boston in Lincolnshire where 75 per cent voted to leave.

"It was an emotive vote," she says. "Britons disregarded rational arguments that the economists trotted out. London, cosmopolitan and diverse, was a bubble. The media lived in that bubble. Outside it, people felt forgotten and bore the brunt of immigration from EU and voted as they did."

The upcoming forum will be the last in the series before the annual Global Outlook Forum in November, which will bring on stage senior journalists from ST's global network and some of Asia's sharpest minds to analyse regional trends.

The first quarterly briefing, held in February, dealt with the Jan 14 terror attack and turbulence in Indonesia. The second, in May, focused on China and its many challenges, from a slowing economy to rumblings in Hong Kong and discord with Taiwan's independence-minded President Tsai Ing-Wen.

•A limited number of seats at the Aug 17 briefing has been set aside for ST readers. There is no entrance fee. Readers who wish to attend must register online at http://str.sg/globaloutlook.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Life after Brexit on the agenda at ST Global Outlook briefing'. Print Edition | Subscribe