Brexit: Hard or Soft Divorce?

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Written by Hailey Hannigan

In November 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether the UK should withdraw from the European Union. By a narrow margin of 51.9% to 48.1% votes in favor of leaving the EU, the UK began its split[1] A year later on March 29, 2017, the UK invoked Clause 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially starting the two-year process of formal withdrawal from the European Union. The whole process has been tumultuous and the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU is unclear. It is interesting to note that the “Remain” and “Leave” votes were split among geographic lines, with London and Scotland voting to stay and the more rural areas of England voting to leave.[2]

It can be argued that the UK’s vote to leave was both economically and nationalistically driven. Being a part of the EU single market forces the UK to adhere to common trade practices, even when they are not in their personal best interest. Growing immigration rates also fueled desires for stricter border policies and nationalistic policy reforms and the open border policies between member states “[The UK] can’t close its borders in the way that it wants.”[3]

Chequers

Two years has proven a short amount of time to deal with the problems that arise from Brexit. In attempts to please all members of her party, Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, struck a deal that takes the best parts of independence and EU membership. This deal, coined “Chequers” after May’s country home, ultimately pleased no one. Economically, it keeps open trade borders with the EU, while allowing for independent trade deals with nations like the United States. Just days ago, at an EU summit in Strasbourg, French President Emanuel Macron came down hard and declared France would never agree to a deal like this.[4] Since the Chequers deal was shot down, “hard Brexit”, soft Brexit and a “no-deal Brexit” are the three most prominent Brexit options. Hard Brexit means that the UK will no longer be a part of the single market, customs union or Free Trade Area.[5] Soft Brexit maintains a similar EU-UK relationship in regards to trade and immigration and single market and free movement of goods will supposedly prevent the need for a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A “no-deal Brexit” is what will happen if the EU and UK make no conclusive agreements before March 2019, the formal end of the two-year grace period.[6]  No matter what deal the EU strikes with its succeeding member state, there will be economic and international consequences.

 

[1] “EU Referendum Results.” BBC News. Accessed September 21, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Taub, Amanda. “Brexit, Explained: 7 Questions About What It Means and Why It Matters.” The New York Times, June 20, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com.

 

[4] Gold, Hadas. “Brexit Was Sold by ‘liars’ and Britain’s Exit Plan Is Unworkable, UK Told.” CNN, September 20, 2018. edition.cnn.com.

 

[5] P., J. “How a Soft Brexit Differs from a Hard One.” The Economist, June 25, 2018. www.economist.com.

 

[6] Ibid.

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