«The split between hard Brexit – soft Brexit does not exist» says British Prime Minister Theresa May arguing her positive expectations for the future. London must decide if it wants a radical break or if it prefers to distance itself from partners. No decision has yet been made, although Premier’s words reveal the will to bid farewell to the European Union.
Hard Brexit involves trading solely under rules set by the WTO without specific agreements with the EU. This kind of choice will hardly be a smooth process or, at most, through a minimum free trade agreement between the continental block and the United Kingdom. By contrast, soft Brexit involves some form of membership of the European Union single market (in return for a degree of free movement of people), with agreements formulated ad hoc for the UK, as London clearly affirmed it does not want to follow the Norwegian and Swiss models. Or, at most, the adhesion to the customs union with arrangements to be determined.
In claiming the right to stop immigration, the Prime Minister has never said she wants to go back to the rules of the World Trade Organization. We do not believe that Great Britain has decided the total break from now, contradicting its pragmatic approach and challenging the financial – industrial complex, on the front line in claiming soft choices.
It was not by chance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond hesitated on the added value generated by foreign professionals and the turmoil awaiting the economy of the country. London surprised those who expected an economic collapse starting from June 24, with a performance higher than expected, but Brexit, it must be said, is not an event. It is the march towards the breaking up of a close political, economic and, above all, commercial bond, and as such, it is a phenomenon intended to grow progressively. Nissan’s choice to freeze investments in the absence of the guarantee for which no customs tariff will be imposed on cars and components trade, is the first symptom of what will happen.
The trade-off passes through the usual theoretical hole: access to pieces of the internal market in exchange for partial constraints on the arrival of intra-community workers. The demands of the parties are speculative: London intends to earn again full sovereignty without undermining the economic wealth, Brussels aims to impede it. In other words, it aims to prevent that London’s example can be followed by the other EU Countries.
Three months after that unexpected “no” is still difficult to imagine a compromise which saves face of the London government in front of the electorate without harming the economic framework and, at the same, granting protection to other partners. Even the idea of finding an understanding on immigration between continental Europe and Great Britain appears to be impossible. For London, the harmful immigrants for its country are mostly Romanians, Polish, maybe Spanish and even Italians, namely EU partners. For other twenty-seven countries, the refugees are those who come from the Middle East or Africa.
Harmony between the EU and the UK is on a very low level, the option “hard or soft Brexit” remains the only real alternative. With a significant difference matured during the week. Until Saturday, the time frame was undetermined. From 16 on Sunday, when Theresa May confirmed that within March 2017 Article 50 on the arrangements for withdrawal from the EU would be invoked, the countdown began. Two years and six months starting from today for an agreement that London has not yet the slightest idea of how and with which personnel to negotiate, nor what kinds of goals it can aim.