- Theresa May wants Britain to leave the EU single market and the customs union, but keep the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland open.
- That’s “not possible,” according to analysts at BAML.
- They drew this diagram to make their case.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch sent a note to clients recently that showed Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations in the form of a Venn diagram. Unfortunately for the British prime minister, her stated goals lie at the centre of three overlapping sets in an area marked “not possible,” because her three “red line” demands are mutually incompatible.
“In our view there is no feasible solution to achieving all three of PM May’s three ‘red lines’ or aims,” wrote analysts Robert Wood and Sebastien Cross.
May’s demands are:
- Pull Britain from the EU single market
- Exit the customs union (which currently allows free movement of goods and services across the EU).
- Retain the “no hard border” policy between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Ireland is a member of the EU while Northern Ireland is British and will leave the bloc along with England, Wales and Scotland on Brexit day. EU law dictates that there will be a physical border between the two Irelands if Britain leaves the customs union.
The border will remain invisible and frictionless if Britain opts to stay in the single market and customs union. Thus Britain cannot both exit the single market and the customs union while keeping open borders in Ireland.
At the weekend, Downing Street said it would seek to exit the customs union – making the reimposition of a hard border in Ireland seemingly inevitable.
“The government could eventually drop ‘red lines’ in order to reach a deal. But the past few days suggest the path to that destination is unlikely to be without political discord,” Wood and Cross wrote. “The government needs to pick where in Exhibit 1 they want to sit.”
Here’s the diagram:
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