The most likely outcome is a soft exit says a former Assistant Director at the Department for International Tradeby David Henig / June 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
In recent days the smoke has cleared from the Brexit negotiations, and we can now see with reasonable clarity the options for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. There will either be a border, in the Irish Sea or on the island of Ireland, or there will be a very close relationship at minimum committing the UK to following EU goods regulations sufficient to ensure no border. This fundamental truth will operate through any implementation period, backstop, and future economic partnership, at least until many years in the future when technology can do away with borders.
Thus we approach what trade negotiators refer to as the end game, the point where the real choices have to be made, by both sides. The point where red lines are tested intensively to see what is real and what is not, and where different interests are traded off. There is always the option that both sides agree that this cannot be completed and the negotiations are extended. But let’s assume that doesn’t happen and the UK leaves the EU at the end of March 2019. What has to happen for the negotiation to be completed?
First and most obviously the UK government has to finally reach a decision on a realistic approach to Brexit. It doesn’t have to exactly match what the EU is offering, but close enough. Forget Max Fac and Customs Partnerships, this means changing the current position where all of a close relationship with the EU, a border in the Irish Sea, and a border on the island of Ireland have been rejected. Given a decision could lead to cabinet resignations and a leadership election in the Conservative Party it would be good to have this decision sooner, but realistically it could take until the last couple of months of the year to finally decide in favour of the close relationship rather than a border, which seems the likely ultimate outcome.
The EU, led by the Commission, is likely to have choices of its own to make, about what concessions it is prepared to give in order to prevent the border on the island of Ireland that is the default setting in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If we assume…