Ok, so we’re not suggesting a Brexit deal is as easy as deciding how you like your boiled eggs for breakfast. But on a serious note, we’ve noticed a significant increase in recent days in the use of the terms “soft” and “hard” when it comes to Brexit. So we thought we’d offer a simple overview of what we believe these terms actually mean. In short, a “soft” Brexit implies some kind of jointly agreed deal regarding the divorce and future relationship between the UK and the EU – a deal which cushions the potential negative impacts many stakeholders believe will occur once the UK leaves the EU. By contrast a “hard” Brexit implies a messy divorce, with the UK ultimately leaving the EU at a certain point in the future with no formal agreement for its future economic and trade relations with the EU.
Whilst we’re a long way from starting (let alone finishing) the Brexit negotiations, the main stumbling block to a soft Brexit at this stage appears to be the UK’s desire to regain sovereign control over migration policy. This is opposed by the EU27 position who strongly assert that the four freedoms (free movement of goods, services, capital and people) are indivisible, core EU values and therefore the UK can’t “cherrypick”. Some Central and Eastern European leaders have gone as far as to threaten to veto a deal which treats their citizens as second class – the UK can’t “have its cake and eat it”, according to Tomas Prouza, leader of the Czech government’s Brexit team and a prominent player within the influential Visegrad group (apologies for mixing the food metaphors!).
All this positioning ahead of an expected article 50 trigger in 2017 might simply turn out to be just that – positioning. But politically speaking if the price to pay for a soft Brexit is too much for the UK PM to swallow, we cannot exclude a hard Brexit scenario – with all the potential confusion, lack of legal certainty and restrictions to trade and economic ties that this brings. Perhaps a little mayonnaise to help soften a hard Brexit Ms May?
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