Brexit – do you prefer it hard or soft?

From our current vantage point, it is difficult to see any other outcome for Britain than “Brexit”. That Britain is set to leave the European Union (EU) in a couple of years seems almost certain. The only question that remains is: how hard or soft will the exit, and landing, be?

Last year’s referendum on Brexit has opened not just a gigantic can of worms – it has also unleashed the full force of the powers that had been locked away in Pandora’s box.

The EU, motivated by ill feelings of revenge – has already stated clearly that it expects Britain to pay for Brexit – and dearly. Of course, Britain is free to refuse any such monetary demands, but doing so would end all further negotiations, and Britain would have to leave the EU without an exit agreement. In other words, there would no longer be any relationship whatsoever between Britain and the continent.

This is the worst-case scenario of a hard Brexit. Europe, probably, wouldn’t suffer too greatly as a result, but Britain’s economy would be left in ruins. It would likely recover again, but that would take years, perhaps even decades. But the country itself would be unrecognizable, and millions of Britons would have suffered tremendous hardship (recession, depression, collapse).

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Theresa May seems hell-bent on achieving just that. She called an unnecessary election for the sole purpose of ostensibly strengthening her bargaining position vis-à-vis Europe, without realizing that Brussels won’t give a hoot about that. And in this case, at least, Brussels is right.

It makes no difference to the EU how many seats May’s governing party has in Parliament. As the EU sees it, Britain (all of it, not just Tories) has asked to be released from the Union. No matter what demands May puts up, the EU has its rules and procedures to follow when dealing with a member-state that wishes to go it alone.

Like in any messy divorce, the party at fault will eventually have to give in and abide by the rules and laws – or run off and be a pariah for the rest of their life.

No crystal ball can tell us exactly how this story will end, but it is safe to say that it will not be what most of the Leavers wanted.

Those who voted for Brexit fall into two groups: xenophobes and sovereignists.

The former saw all the violence and terror attacks around Europe and said, enough. “We’ll protect Britain by closing down our borders and removing ourselves from the EU”, they figured.

Too bad they didn’t think things through first. For if Muslims and/or Islamists are the biggest threat to Britain there is, in the opinion of this particular group of Leavers, then they surely picked the wrong target.

If Britain leaves the EU and bars Europeans from entering and working in Britain, it won’t stop the Islamic terrorist threat. Those people have been coming to Britain since long before the country joined the EU (or EC in those days), and they will continue arriving in droves even after Brexit, unless Britain ends all immigration.

That is to say, this one group of Leavers will be sorely disappointed, no matter what happens in and after 2019.

The other group of Leavers, the sovereignists, voted in favour of Brexit because they wanted to restore Britain’s sovereignty. “Let no continental parliament or courts tell us how to do things around here!” they’d holler.

It’s not a bad cause; every country should look out for its own interests and ensure the well-being of its people. And that includes maintaining access to Europe’s Single Market.

For this group of Leavers, closing the borders to (European) immigrants is not part of the plan. They’d happily continue participating in the Single Market, but without having any control over or say in its rules and regulations (which is what Norway and Switzerland have been doing). At the same time, though, their country would be free again, Westminster would rule supreme yet again, and they wouldn’t be subjugated to European laws and courts any more.

Really? Even under such a soft Brexit scenario, Britain would still be bound by a considerable number of European laws, directives and court decisions. The only difference from before is that Britain would no longer have a voice in any of them.

This works just fine for the Norwegians and the Swiss. They just want to do business with the rest of the continent and otherwise be left alone. They don’t worry about their sovereignty, because they have nothing to worry about.

But that won’t work for the sovereignist Leavers in Britain. Just like the other group of Leavers, they, too, will be disappointed in the end.

Hard or soft, Brexit supporters won’t get what they are after.

Well, the truck has been set in motion, its brakes are failing, and there’s no way to stop it from crashing into the concrete wall straight ahead.

Unless… unless the good people of Britain and/or their government manage to grab hold of their senses and decide to do what must be done: another referendum on the negotiated Brexit agreement with the EU when it’s all done and ready.

Just a friendly reminder: technically speaking, last year’s referendum merely gave the British government a mandate to negotiate the country’s departure from the EU. It was not a mandate to leave the Union just yet.

By all rights, therefore, once an agreement has been hammered out, for soft or hard Brexit or whatever else it may be, it will have be put to a vote for the sake of all democratic principles – yes, another referendum. And the question must be: Do you agree with Britain’s leaving the European Union based on the present agreement reached between Britain and the European Union? Yes or no?

Author: Werner Patels

Translator - Thinker - Writer

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