Soft Brexit, Hard Brexit……Ultra Brexit?

This autumn, Radix will be publishing a full-length report on this topic.

When one examines the Conservative Party’s internecine divisions and all-out obsessions regarding the European Union down through the years, it is worth noting that a great deal of them make no sense. Lest you think this is going to be some Remainer diatribe, allow me to elaborate.

Some Brexit positions on the Right at least make internal sense. Take Dan Hannan’s argument (which has now become the position taken by most pro-Remain campaigners in Britain, bizarrely): let’s leave the EU and stay in the single market via the EEA. We have no influence anyhow as we get outvoted by everyone else, so if we leave we’ll just end up paying less money for pretty much the same deal. Setting aside the argument against this position I would make, namely that the main reason the UK didn’t have more influence in the EU was because we never bothered to use it, alongside the fact that EEA membership would have to be ratified by other countries, so not in Britain’s control even that’s what we wanted to do, this argument is at least structurally sound. I’ve never bought into it myself, but it at does have intellectual integrity going for it.

Then there is what I would refer to as the ultra-Brexit argument (as opposed to the hard or soft options the media bandies about these days). This is (or was anyway) Douglas Carswell’s favourite form of Brexit. Basically, we leave the EU and the single market – but we make up for it by becoming a free trade utopia, flinging open the borders to almost anyone while eliminating any and all tariffs on goods or services coming from anywhere and reducing tax to further incentivise foreign investment. Douglas would no doubt say I’ve exaggerated greatly for effect here (“flinging the borders open” is a bit hyperbolic, I’ll admit), but I wanted to get the feel of the thing over to you. Again, ultra-Brexit is not my cup of tea but it at least it makes sense. It’s a plan, in other words, one that is clear cut in its direction.

As for what makes up the “hard Brexit” option supported by Boris and others – most of that makes no sense whatsoever. By that I don’t mean it would have bad repercussions for the country or that it is plagued by shortcomings; I mean rather that it is so riddled with internal contradictions it is nonsensical.

For years we heard over and over again from Tory Brexiteers about how the EU was holding the great trading nation of Britain back and that if we just left the sagging Brussels weight behind us prosperity would reign. Now that we’ve voted to Leave? Fox talks about how British businessmen are lazy and play too much golf. Does Fox now think British businesses owe the country something? How communitarian of him all of a sudden! Or all this casual chat about tariffs probably being necessary by Tory MPs, or visas to get to France being no big deal, or David Davis talking about how leaving the EU will be the most complicated negotiation ever entered into by human beings, all while saying that workers’ rights as they stand will be protected…………where has the right-wing Brexit swashbuckling spirit gone? Could it just be possible that leaving the EU was simply some weird article of faith for many on the Right and they only realise now that it doesn’t match at all with most of the other stuff they believe in?

At least Davis and others are starting to come clean. Brexit will be ridiculously complicated. It actually can be done and possibly without destroying the entire economy. So we should welcome the Minister for Brexit’s comments that it will be very tricky as it at least shows they understand that much. I’m just wondering why he and other pro-Brexiters never understood any of that prior to June 23rd.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.


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