Hard Brexit / Soft Brexit - What are the facts?

From Chris Sheldrake, Dorset

Since the outcome of the referendum became known on 24th June, the forces of the Remain side have fought a rearguard action in an attempt to thwart the will of the majority.

The argument to hold a second referendum has largely been lost, despite notable interventions from Tony Blair and Owen Smith in recent days so Remainers have reverted to a more subtle argument based around the concept of "Soft Brexit.”

Arch-Europhile LibDem Nick Clegg is a leading proponent of "Soft Brexit” yet he of all people with wide experience in both the UK Government and Brussels knows only too well that this is a wholly disingenuous argument. There is no such thing as "soft Brexit”. Background

Prior to the Referendum campaign, Cameron attempted to negotiate concessions to curtail Freedom of Movement and enable him to recommend remaining within the EU.

Despite knowing the importance of the issue of migration from published opinion polls and the thought that the rapidly approaching referendum might concentrate minds, it was made very clear by Merkel, Juncker and Hollande that no concessions were going to be made.

Cameron then tried to negotiate a worthless "emergency brake” to inward migration from other member states. Worthless, because it would be entirely up to the 27 and Commission as to if and when the brake could be implemented. Cameron must have known that winning the referendum would now be immensely more difficult and, despite assuring the country that if he could not win suitable concessions he would recommend leaving, he went ahead and led the Remain campaign from the front.

The Leave side fought and won the Referendum campaign on four clear policy lines :

  1. Take back control of Immigration Policy
  2. Take back control of our legal system, ending the primacy of the European Court
  3. Take back the power to negotiate our own trade deals with other Countries
  4. An end to EU Budget Contributions

Given the very recent experience of Cameron's failed renegotiation, it was entirely obvious throughout the campaign that the Brussels establishment and the political leaders of the other EU major States would regard the continuation of tariff-free trade in goods and services between the UK and the 27 as incompatible with any one of these four demands, let alone all four.

Forthcoming Negotiations

As the four issues detailed above were the entire basis on which the Leave campaign won, they will inevitably be Red Lines in the Leave negotiations.

With the attitude of the rest of the EU clearly stated beforehand, it stands to reason that Leaving always had to mean being outside the so-called single market and also the Customs Union. (Being in the Customs Union requires member states to hand over all external trade negotiations to Brussels).

Leading Remain spokesmen including Cameron and Osbourne made all this very clear throughout the campaign.

Every Remain campaigner knows only too well that this is the case, yet they are being entirely dishonest by continuing to demand "Soft Brexit” in the hope that Mrs May can be persuaded to water down her four Red Lines.

In short, what they are trying to do is keep the United Kingdom firmly under the control of Brussels but without a place at the table at which we could make an ultimately fruitless attempt to influence the future direction of the Union. This would clearly be the worst of all worlds.

Negotiation Strategy

Much is being made about the need for confidentiality in our negotiation strategy yet there really is no need to hold back on this :

It is obvious that the Government will offer to continue with Tariff-Free trade in goods and services together with clear implementation of the four Red Lines. The deal is very much in the interest of the 27, given our trade deficit with them, and it can be sweetened with continuing cooperation in areas such as security and policing but essentially that is it. There may be some negotiation around the edges but essentially it will be up to the 27 to accept or decline this offer.

Given the frequently stated position from Brussels, they will almost certainly decline rather quickly. In that case major discussions can be ended and trade will have to revert to WTO trade terms.

Mrs May will then endeavour to ensure that we make a clean but friendly break with the 27 allowing time for discussions of the fine detail after we have formerly left.

Remember, the Article 50 period of 24 months is a maximum, every month we remain within the Union costs us another £850m in net contributions.

In whose interest is it to prolong negotiations ?

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