Brexit and Frexit: How Will the EU Deal with Two Exits Simultaneously?

With the United Kingdom gunning for Brexit and France being pulled in the direction of Euroscepticism, we take a hypothetical look at how the European Union (EU) would deal with two exits simultaneously.

For many, the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU was a death knell for the pan-European project. In their mind, it’s only a matter of time before contagion spreads throughout the region as nationalist movements look to wrestle control away from Brussels.

Euroscepticism has arrived on France’s shores in a big way. On June 8, the country will vote on whether to give power to centrist Emmanuel Macron or far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Although France’s Frexit fate has been tied to a Le Pen victory, Macron has recently upped the anti-EU rhetoric. In a recent interview with BBC, Macron said that the EU must reform or face a Frexit.[1]

This leads to the logical question: how would EU policymakers deal with Brexit and Frexit simultaneously?

For starters, this would be nothing short of a nightmare scenario for Brussels, which is attempting to contain Euroscepticism. With two of its three largest member states leaving, very few would bet on the continued survival of the single market.

Faced with two exit scenarios, EU lawmakers may feel compelled to offer more concessions to their soon-to-be former members. Rather than get bogged down in a bitter legal battle over trade, the EU may be willing to grant each country continued free trade access to the single market while relaxing some of its other conditions, such as freedom of mobility.

Of course, such a strategy could easily backfire because it may compel more countries to exit the bloc in hopes of retaining free trade access.

A Frexit scenario would likely send the euro plunging against most other major currencies. Much like Brexit, which shaved more than 10% off the British pound, Frexit would drive the euro below parity against the dollar. The outcome may not be bad for stocks because it would trigger more aggressive stimulus from the European Central Bank (ECB) to shore up confidence in the region. Brexit clearly demonstrated that a weak local currency and record monetary easing are a boon to the equity markets.

Whatever the case, the EU would be faced with an existential crisis should Brexit and Frexit materialize at the same time. This would almost assuredly result in new calls to reform the bloc that Brussels would have to seriously consider. This means re-evaluating its policies on immigration and transfer payments.

It will be at least two years before Brexit is official. The outlook on Frexit is even less certain given that France’s EU membership is codified in the nation’s constitution. For Frexit to become reality, the incoming president would need to gain the support of both the National Assembly and the Senate. Even then, 60% of French voters would need to back an EU exit via referendum, which would prove very difficult for a country with strong EU ties.[2]

Although France is not on track for Frexit any time soon, the country’s Euro sceptics have real grievances that Brussels must resolve to ensure France’s continued membership of the single market.

For the time being, Brexit is the only battle Brussels will have to wage. Long term, the discussion is wide open.

[1] Kait Bolongaro (May 1, 2017). “Macron to EU: Reform or face Frexit.” Politico.

[2] Sam Bourgi (April 25, 2017). “Will France Leave the EU Next?”

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