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Brexit: Hard or Soft, that is the question

by / 1 Comment / 02/11/2016

Article 50 will not be launched until Britain’s Brexit course is firmly established; I say, let’s go in for the kill and make a hard exist — otherwise, what’s the point of an Out vote?

 

The dreaded Brexit vote of June 2016. A historical moment which was supposed to signal the United Kingdom’s doom in the event of an ‘Out’ vote. Unfortunately for those who claimed as such, the United Kingdom is very much afloat and, to borrow the words of Elton John,  ‘ … still standing better than I ever did’.

Now, in the aftermath of the British referendum not much appears to have been done, except for idle chit-chat and the daily mention of Article 50 — which sounds more like the big red button that the protagonist of a film should never ever press, for fear of a global explosion. Or something like that, anyway.

I just want to reassure you all that Article 50 isn’t quite so disastrous, unless you voted to remain in the European Union. Comprised of only 250 words, article 50 features five Lilliputian paragraphs which, ironically, now dominate the headlines of every news outlet in Europe. This is the article that must be triggered by a country’s government if it wishes to leave the EU.

I say ‘Lilliputian’ because, to be quite honest, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty seems to have been treated as if it was a mere formality at the time of its drafting. Indeed, one could say that the drafters of the original Treaty were right to assume this; in the entire time that it has existed, no country has needed it, until now.

Article 50 states:

‘Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’

It further dictates that a member state that triggers the Article must notify the European Council of this intention, negotiate trade deals on its withdrawal of the Union and be able to establish a legally binding foundation for its future connection with the EU member states. However, as with all things European, the Union itself has the final say, given that the negotiations have to be agreed by a qualified majority of member states, and the European Parliament in Brussels must consent to the exit — or in this case, the Brexit.

Oh and, given that the British Parliament likes to elongate just about every process it undertakes, whether it be the maintenance of roads, or the removal of snow on major travel routes, the most likely reason for the delay in the triggering of Article 50 is probably the fact that once triggered, the member state must complete all of the above in exactly two years. If it doesn’t, it will be ostracised from the European bloc with no provisions unless all representatives of the European Parliament vote to extend the period of negotiation. That timespan then, is probably not long enough for British politicians.

So, that is the infamous ‘Article 50’ cleared up … I hope that you will no longer face any confusion when presented with this name — which is what most of the political elite who didn’t fancy leaving the European Union probably count on.

Now, you will also have read that the Government, under Theresa May, is currently debating whether to go for a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit. Again, simple words whose meaning most of us do not know! I’ll attempt to clear that up next. Queue the subheadings.

What is a ‘hard’ Brexit?

Good question! A hard Brexit is one of the United Kingdom’s two negotiation strategies for our divorce with the European Union. With it, will come the abandonment of Europe’s single market for goods and services. Seems a tad drastic, and not necessarily ideal, right? But in return the United Kingdom will regain full control over its budget, the Supreme Court will once again be, well, supreme, and border controls will also be under the power of the British Parliament. If a hard Brexit occurs, Theresa May’s cabinet will need to hastily secure new trade pacts with the European Union — if this is not managed, British companies will be expected to trade by the standard of the World Trade Organisation, which means more tariffs and more expenses!

What is a ‘soft’ Brexit?

Well, a soft Brexit is almost the polar opposite to the previously mentioned hard strategy. The United Kingdom would most likely negotiate further tariff-free access to the European single market. Much like Norway, the United Kingdom could act as a member of the European Economic Area, without being a member of the European Union itself. We could contribute a lesser fee to the EU budget whilst still allowing the free movement of labour and conceding to a minority of EU laws.

Who cares whether we go in soft, or hard?

Well, we all probably should! Why? Because the thought alone of a hard Brexit saw the pound plummet to a three-decade low, when Theresa May and her star-studded line-up of Brexiteers hinted that they would be aiming for the United Kingdom to rid itself completely of the European initiative and start afresh. Leading economists fear that the British economy would gradually fall apart if trade with the UK’s biggest commercial partner (the European Union) fades away. This would lead to weaker economic growth, less foreign investors, faster inflation rates, and a harder time controlling the country’s increasing deficit.

But then, maybe May is right … After all, over the past 100 years, almost half of which we have spent in the European Union, the cost of goods in the UK has already risen by almost 9,000 per cent. Figures supplied by Lloyds Private Banking show that we would need £8,970 just to afford the same items that you could buy for £100 in 1915.

Maybe we should go for a hard Brexit; the past may have been cheaper, but the future of Britain is priceless.

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  • James Vango-Searle

    Many people do not believe a “Hard” or “Soft” Brexit. What the 17.4 million people voted for was to leave the European Union including the single market to gain full independence of our United Kingdom.