Let`s call it «Hard Brexit»

in Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · Europe 2017 · Finance 2017 · Germany 2017 · Great Britain 2017 · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Person 2017 · Politics 2017 158 views / 6 comments
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GEOMETR.IT      project-syndicate.org


*the safest form of Brexit might be the one that hurts the most, so long as it leaves behind a stable EU. 

LONDON – It is easy to forget that defense and security are not the same thing. Defense is what countries must resort to when their security breaks down. And during peacetime, countries spend money on defense precisely because they fear for their security.

Since 2014, the security environment for Britain and the European Union has deteriorated sharply. In March of that year, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. It was the first time since World War II that a major European power sought to redraw its own borders by force of arms.

In 1994, Russia agreed to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine’s handover of the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the Soviet Union. But Russia didn’t stop with Crimea; since then, it has waged a low-intensity unconventional war against Ukraine in the country’s eastern Donbas region.

And Ukraine is not alone. Russia has also sent ships and warplanes to threaten the coasts of other Western countries, abducted an Estonian intelligence officer on NATO territory, and sustained an ongoing military buildup in Eastern Europe, the Arctic, and elsewhere.

Despite these deteriorating security conditions, a slim majority of Britons voted in June 2016 to withdraw from the EU – a decision that could fatally undermine the United Kingdom’s relationship with its European NATO partners. Making matters worse, in November of 2016, Donald Trump, who has long expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, was elected president of the United States.

Although Trump expressed disdain for NATO during the 2016 campaign, he appears to have been reined in by the many generals he has installed in top positions. Still, he could always change his mind. The Republican Party is in the throes of a deep internal schism that could end with the victory of its populist wing, led by Trump’s nationalist, anti-EU Svengali, Stephen Bannon.

If Bannon does manage to transform the Republican Party in accordance with his nationalist vision, and if the Republicans retain or regain power in the future, US security commitments to Europe will no longer be reliable. Continued Russian attacks on Western political systems, or even an outright military attack in Europe, could go unanswered by the US.

Without firm US support, a politically divided EU would be increasingly vulnerable to Russian political domination. At the same time, a politically cohesive EU would be a bulwark of stability stretching from the English Channel to Ukraine’s Dnieper River. In the absence of US leadership, a stable and secure EU could thus become the most important pillar of the UK’s post-Brexit security strategy.

But the stability of the EU is far from guaranteed, because a smooth and painless Brexit may tempt other member states to also quit the bloc. Some argue that this outcome is unlikely, because it is impossible, in practice, for eurozone countries to leave. If a eurozone country even suggested that it might withdraw from the euro and the EU, the resulting capital flight would devastate its economy. According to this view, the fact that two-thirds of EU member states belong to the euro is enough to prevent the EU from unraveling.

If only that were so. In reality, a number of important EU members remain outside the euro, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania, and Sweden. Moreover, under favorable circumstances, eurozone countries with current-account surpluses – such as Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Austria – could probably leave the euro without suffering catastrophic harm. And lest we forget, Western electorates have demonstrated a unique capacity for self-harm. Consider not just Brexit and the election of Trump, but also Catalan separatists’ game of economic Russian roulette over the past month and a half.

As things stand, the UK still seems to be politically incapable of abandoning Brexit altogether, even though that would be the best course of action for all involved. But between the options of a “soft” and “hard” Brexit – in which Britain would leave the EU single market and customs union – the latter may have at least one advantage. Namely, it would not further undermine European stability, which also happens to be Britain’s biggest security asset.

To be sure, a “hard” Brexit would come at a high economic cost for the UK. Industrial supply chains would be disrupted, the construction industry would be denuded of its EU workers, the City of London would lose international importance, the pound would continue depreciating, and the public sector – particularly the National Health Service – would be stretched thin. The EU, too, would incur costs, albeit much smaller as a share of its overall economy.

Despite the costs, a “hard” Brexit would, at a minimum, discourage other EU members from following the UK’s lead, thereby shoring up European stability and helping Britain maintain its national security, which may be the most important consideration in the long run. Such an outcome would be ironic, to say the least. But even more ironic is the fact that those pushing for it are the very Brexiteers who would like to see the EU fail. They are convinced that their vision of a buccaneering, global Britain can be achieved only with a clean break from Europe. They might soon find out if they’re right



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  1. There are a myriad of possible post-EU arrangements being discussed and, although there are no definitive definitions, they can be loosely categorised as “hard” or “soft” Brexit options.

  2. German business leaders have expressed a similar view. Markus Kerber of the German BDI group told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s better to have a hard Brexit that works than to have a fudge in the middle that has to be renegotiated or doesn’t politically work and you have uncertainty lingering on.

  3. National models for this sort of deal include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are not members of the EU but have access to the single market by being part of the European Economic Area.

  4. Hard Brexit seems to be the bandwaggon this government has jumped on with so much alacrity, that it makes me wonder whether that was what they really wanted all along.
    Soft Brexit is the political fudge that actually will happen; which will be only good for politicians and their mates the elite and rich. Not for the rest of us…..

  5. Personally, I wouldn’t even bother with their article 50. Negotiate with the eu states separately,(on there own), rather than as a big bullying block.

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