With cabinet ministers resigning by the hour, it’s tempting to think that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union (EU) is dead on arrival, and that a hard Brexit is now the most likely way forward. But some form of soft Brexit is still the most likely scenario, in our view.
Brexit is a ferociously complicated and divisive subject, and it was always going to be like this as we entered the end game. In Brexit jargon, the meaning of “soft” and “hard” Brexit has changed a lot since the June 2016 referendum on EU membership. Initially, soft Brexit meant the UK opting for a Norway-style relationship with the EU while hard Brexit meant leaving on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms (in the worst case) or opting for a Canada-style trade deal.
From a longer-term perspective, these choices are still hugely important, but the terms soft and hard Brexit now mean something quite different: whether the UK leaves with a deal that provides a smooth transition to its (undecided) future trading relationship with the EU or whether it crashes out of the EU without a deal at all (Display). Looked at this way, these two scenarios might be better thought of as exit-deal Brexit and no-deal Brexit. The other possibility, of course, is that after making an enormous amount of fuss the UK backtracks and withdraws its request to leave the EU.
What is the likely impact of these different scenarios?