The gut response of many Remainers is to support the softest of soft Brexits as the best alternative to remaining within the European Union. In similar vein, hardcore Leave voters are determined that the only choice on offer should be a hard Brexit or no deal at all; with Britain simply crashing out of the EU in March 2019.
This, however, may be the wrong way of looking at the issue according to Tom McTague at Politico.
Prior to the referendum, immigration was the most important issue to Leave voters. However, since the 2017 election, with the UK now the worst performing economy in the OECD, trade and the economy have emerged as the most important:
“Senior Tories now fear they are in a bind that is impossible to escape. They cannot undo Brexit even if they wanted to, but the public will blame them for any economic pain suffered as a result of leaving.”
This has led to a more or less open split in the governing Tory party between hard Brexiteers like Davis, Fox, Johnson and May, and soft Brexiteers like Chancellor Philip Hammond – whose views are undoubtedly in the majority in parliament, but may be less popular in the Tory party itself:
“The solution being pushed by the chancellor and other leading “soft Brexiteers” is a long, steady transition out of the EU with much of what already exists slowly rebuilt under a new name. Out of the customs union and into a comprehensive customs agreement. Goodbye free movement, hello European visa area.”
If the UK economy continues to falter even before Britain leaves the EU, this approach could lead to a perpetual Brexit similar but inverse to Switzerland’s perpetual endeavours to join the EU. Britain would permanently be intending to leave, but in practice never would do. If, on the other hand, the UK walks away with no deal at all, according to McTague the ensuing economic collapse is likely to result in popular clamour to re-join:
“An irony not lost on some Brexiteers is that the softer the landing, managed by Brexit-skeptic former Remainers, the more likely they are to reach their hard final destination. For committed Europhiles, the most likely route back to Brussels lies in a chaotic break.”
It is certainly a counterintuitive proposition. But then again, as Bill Clinton famously remarked, “it’s the economy stupid!”