Here are 3 viable hard Brexit options. All are dreadful

by Hugo Dixon | 04.09.2018

Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly hate Chequers: it’s a castration Brexit. But they won’t spell out a workable alternative because they know voters would run a mile.

The nub of the problem is that the EU won’t give us a trade pact unless we first agree a divorce deal. But the hardliners are neither prepared to say yes to the EU’s divorce terms nor face up to the reality of crashing out of the bloc without any deal.

Take Johnson. Yesterday he wrote that we should cut a “big and generous free trade deal” with the EU. But he didn’t propose a viable scheme to keep the Irish border open, an essential precondition of getting an amicable divorce, declaring the whole problem was a “myth”.

The electorate deserves better. The Brexiters need to put forward an honest alternative to Chequers rather than more cake-and-eat-it.

There are at least three viable alternatives. The problem is that each has serious problems.

1. No money, no deal

We stick two fingers up to the EU. We don’t have a divorce deal – and we don’t do a trade deal either. We just rely on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which would be vastly inferior to our current network of trade agreements.

This option creates immediate havoc. There is no transition to a new trading relationship with the EU, just an immediate cliff. There is no way to copy the EU’s deals with over 60 other countries, including Japan and Canada, either. And there is mayhem on the Irish border.

We don’t pay the EU the £39 billion we agree we owe it to settle our past bills. But that’s a false economy. The EU pursues us in the courts and there’s bitterness all round.

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2. Pay money, still no deal

If Brexiters don’t like that, they could pay the EU the £39 billion – but not keep the Irish border open. That solves the problem of them pursuing us in the courts for what we owe.

But the chances of a trade deal would still be slim because we would have reneged on our Irish promises, so again we’d fall back on WTO rules without a transition. Although the UK would be in slightly less turmoil than in the previous scenario, Johnson et al would find it hard to justify giving the EU £39 billion and seemingly getting nothing in return.

3. Irish Sea border

What about the third option? That is to give the EU £39 billion and keep the Irish border open. We’d then get a trade pact like the one Canada has. That’s better than the WTO but not nearly as good as the deal we currently have with the EU.

What’s more, we couldn’t get such a deal unless we also imposed border controls in the Irish Sea. And while some hard Brexiters wouldn’t mind that, Northern Ireland’s DUP, which is propping up the Tory government, would go apeshit.

Given all these problems, it’s not surprising that the Brexiters don’t want to be pinned down. But they need to pick their poison. Otherwise, they are treating the public like idiots.

The last sentence of the second para about playing for time was deleted shortly after publication.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Here are 3 viable hard Brexit options. All are dreadful”

  • Our esteemed P.M. continues her denial of a further consultation with the people as if nothing has changed. How does she know that what we voted for then is what we still want? The people change views on which Government is wanted at 5 year or less intervals and there is ample evidence that a change of view regarding Brexit could have taken place. Time for Mrs May to get out and about amongst the citizens of the U.K. methinks – and reassess the feelings.

  • How many people who voted in the referendum, either to leave or remain, actually gave any thought to trade deals, hard or soft borders, 39 billion pound fines, Or even knew these were things to consider ?
    The idea of giving “The General Public” the choice to remain or leave, is beyond belief and should be treated as some kind of crime against common sense. Incidentally, where is Mr Cameron to explain this preposterous decision ?

  • What does a ‘People’s Vote’ mean? Is it another referendum? All the articles here seem to assume so, but if so what question(s) will it ask? What majority will be needed to make it mandatory upon the Government to follow its conclusion, or will it be merely advisory? Until we know the answers to such questions as these , we risk being in the same position of ignorance as before the No 1 Referendum. Then we had no idea of what a Leave vote might mean. The Brexiters told us lies. The Remain team were too complacent to do the necessary research.
    I personally want Britain to regain its place as an influential member of the EU, for reasons of peace, harmony and renewed prosperity, and at last to take that membership seriously. We need to press for much needed reforms. This Brexit adventure has gone far enough – far enough I hope to frighten the other EU members and to make them and us a lot wiser. I’d hope both are wise enough now to understand the NEED for properly organised immigration, immigration cleansed from the smears of UKIP’s power-hungry demagogues; our government wise enough to recognise the huge damage done to the poor and needy by an austerity programme that left the affluent still affluent.
    But how do we get back into the EU? We have rightly escoriated the Brexiters – the B Johnson/Rees-Mogg gang – for their failure to come up with a plan for ‘a good Brexit’. But what is our plan? I have seen ideas of cross party alliances mentioned, of a ‘European Movement’ that will sweep all before it, of a Labour Party wrested from its leader’s adhesion to a wishy-washy pro-Brexit policy. I see stats that suggest that a majority of MPs remain Remainers. But, irrespective of opinion polls veering in favour of Remain, what will fill the vacuum created by the absence of a charismatic statesman who will lead us back to Europe and prosperity? Who is strong enough to combat the tribalistic loyalties of party politicians who still put party before country? What is the scenario in which Britain is enabled to come to its senses and kick into touch that miserable, marginal vote one day in July two years ago when a disgruntled populace scraped together a majority to get out of Europe?
    A ‘People’s Vote’ that demonstrated a passionate desire, not for a soft Brexit, but for resumption of Britain’s place within Europe, would obviously be helpful. But this brings us back to the circumstances and wording of a People’s Vote. See first para. Will it be an option on the ballot paper to vote to remain in the EU? What will be the status of the People’s Vote? Etc.
    I have severe misgivings about the People’s Vote, as something likely to be badly planned with no clear objective in view, and therefore easily sidelined by anyone who opposes its probably ambiguous conclusion. My hopes lie in a political revolution, in which enough MPs recognise that public opinion is moving so solidly against Brexit that they feel able to abandon their party line and take control of Parliament, as is their entitlement and duty, in order to follow their conscience and decide to keep Britain inside the EU. I just hope they get their act together soon enough to prevent the debacle of ‘no deal’ or ‘bad deal’. Can any of the In Facts regular pundits suggest how this might come about?

  • The answer is to ask for 1st and 2nd preferences out of WTO, the negotiated deal, and remain in the EU. If none get a clear majority, add 2nd prefs.