Brexit forever or Brexit never? – Reuters

 In World

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON In the year since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the future of Brexit has been thrown into question by Prime Minister Theresa May’s failed gamble on a snap general election.

While both May’s Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party now explicitly support leaving the club the United Kingdom joined in 1973, some of the Union’s most powerful politicians have raised the possibility of Britain cancelling Brexit.

Will Brexit actually happen? And if it does, how might it look? Following are some of the options.


Under this scenario, Britain leaves the EU but gets a deal that is as close as possible to EU membership.

Before the June 8 election, May proposed a clean break from the EU: leaving its single market, which enshrines free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and proposing limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

But the election result deprived her Conservative Party of its majority in parliament, and such is the collapse of May’s authority that her Brexit strategy is being picked apart – and softened – in public by her ministers, lawmakers and allies.

“When the British people voted (in the EU referendum) last June, they did not vote to become poorer, or less secure,” British finance minister Philip Hammond said in a speech this month.

“They did vote to leave the EU. And we will leave the EU. But it must be done in a way that works for Britain,” Hammond said, adding that he wanted an agreement for trade in goods and services and a transition deal to avoid unnecessary disruption.

The Brexit referendum result, under this scenario, would be formally honored but Britain would remain either in – or very close – to the single market and the customs union and with some deal on immigration, while paying membership dues to the EU.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for continued membership of the single market, though it is unclear what the EU would demand for such a deal.

One option would be a long transitional arrangement that would preserve a British quasi-membership for years to come. Or the negotiations could be extended beyond the expected leaving date of March 2019.

Immigration would be the hardest riddle to solve: Big businesses want cheap labor but many British voters see leaving the EU as a way to stop the unlimited immigration from the bloc that membership of the single market implies.

For Brexiteers, an EU exit that left Britain so close to the bloc – and so subject to EU regulation – would be a sellout.


Brexit doesn’t happen: The $2.5 trillion economy stalls, prompting calls for a second EU referendum that – if held during a deep recession – could produce a vote to remain in the EU.

“Many are secretly and shockingly praying for a recession: they want people weeping in the streets from economic pain so that they can have a second EU referendum,” said Richard Tice, who helped found one of the two Leave campaign groups.

“If that happened all bets would be off and we would be in a democratic and constitutional crisis in Britain the likes of which none of us have ever seen in our lifetimes.”

If the Brexit decision was reversed by a second vote, the Article 50 notice that triggered formal divorce talks would be withdrawn, though there is no legal certainty on how, and Britain would remain a member of the EU.

Other routes to a Brexit halt include disrupting the British government’s exit legislation, battling Brexit in the courts or the rise of a credible pro-EU politician who could challenge the consensus and the leaderships of both major political parties.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the EU’s door remains open, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has also indicated Britain could be welcomed back.

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