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What is a "soft brexit"?

Author: 
Editorial Staff

First, the term "brexit" is not original. It was copied from a term "grexit" which was coined to refer to the possibility that Greece, in the throes of a financial crisis, might choose to leave, or be thrown out of, the Eurozone, i.e. that part of Europe which uses the Euro as a common currency. It is, simply, a contraction of the term "British Exit." Britain is not part of the Eurozone, which means that it is, theoretically, outside the influence of the European Central Bank, but Britain is part of all other EU institutions and does,...

In a world where people communicate in smilies and ultra-contractions like "LOL" (which, incidentally, has changed its meaning since it first came into use as "lots of love") compounded by both unnecessarily compounded words and buzzwords, it is inevitable that expressions will be coined, and fall into common parlance, in part because, by using them, people feel that they know the subject and/or feel that they belong to a group, of sorts. So the extraordinarily ugly expression "Grexit" became the standard bearer as short-hand for all those schemes that have come and, largely, gone for countries to leave the EU voluntarily. We have, therefore, see, for example "frexit."

In this article, we look at what a "soft brexit" would be.

The simple answer is that it would barely be brexit at all.

All existing EU-derived law would remain in place and so would all the policies and procedures under it. There would be no imposition of new law from the EU. That, it is useful to know, is exactly what the Withdrawal Act says. See "The status of EU law in the UK after withdrawal" ( here). In addition, the UK would continue to make contributions to the EU budget and it would continue to see some EU money circulating and being paid to the UK for projects of which the EU approves. Free movement of capital, goods, services and, the subject of which the most is made in the media, people (collectively known as "The Four Freedoms") would continue as now.

At the heart of the free movement of goods is the Customs Union and at the heart of the free movement of capital and services is taxation.

In relation to people, the most important point is the "Schengen Area."

From a consumer's point of view, the all-important CE mark would continue to have effect in the UK and the EU freedom of the skies rules would remain in place.

Also, what would remain in place would be the EU procurement rules under which government and local government departments must put all but the smallest purchases out for tender for supply from anywhere in the EU. It is illegal under EU law for a national or local government to prefer a local supplier. The bans on specific regional or industry aid by national governments would remain - although any reasonable analysis of the state of that would show that it is so full of holes it doesn't work properly or, in some cases, at all and it was, to all intents and purposes, blown apart by national assistance given to companies in the global financial crisis. The Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy which have seen UK fishing fleets far more than decimated and in some cases wiped out would remain and fishing vessels from other EU countries would continue to fish in UK national waters even when the UK wishes to undertake conservation and re-stocking policies. Under the CAP, the pressure on farmers has been intense. There is also the serious concern that the EU might create a new version of the Celtic Tiger under which huge amounts of money flowed through the EU to Ireland, creating a boom and very rapid wealth in farming and other industries, a boom that crashed out disastrously in the global financial crisis. EU rules about reserving the names of products would continue (seemingly, but not necessarily, appearing to favour the French by reserving names such as "Champagne" and "Roquefort" while utterly failing to enforce a reservation on "feta."

The theory behind a soft "brexit" is that all of this would remain in place and the UK would, over time, negotiate withdrawal, modification or opt-outs in each case. The biggest problem with a soft Brexit is that the UK would no longer be entitled to elect Members of the European Parliament nor to have its civil servants applying brakes, checks and balances on the activities of Eurocrats, in particular in relation to any amendments or repeal of existing EU law as it affects the UK. That, too, is exactly what the Withdrawal Act provides.

Under a soft "brexit," the UK would also remain subject to decisions of the European Court simply because it is the Court that decides on interpretation of EU originated law. The European Court of Human Rights is not the same as the European Court.

Importantly, under a soft "brexit" the UK would have, at least initially, all the same obligations as it presently has but no representation. Incredibly, a soft "brexit" would not give Britain independence, it would turn Britain into a colony.

When the UK Prime Minister Therese May said "Brexit means Brexit" she was not talking about a soft "brexit" but instead she was using rhetoric to tell the EU that she was prepared to let the UK walk out of the EU on exit day. That was, simply, never going to happen. If we consider "soft" and "hard" to be opposite ends of a line of a piece of paper, the end result was always going to be closer to the "soft" end of the line for the simple reason that the EU is deeply embedded in UK life and law far more than the UK is embedded in the EU. The EU needs the UK's money but it does not need the UK. The UK needs some of the benefits of the EU, mostly the free trade and customs union which, it has to be said, were the primary reasons that the UK voted, in 1974, to remain in the EU at that time: it is the political union, and the idea that the UK cannot police it own borders against migration, that is at the heart of the decision to leave the EU. The EU was right when it accused the UK of wanting to cherry-pick the parts of the EU that it wants to keep.

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