After months of speculation as to whether or not it would eventuate following the June 23 referendum, the United Kingdom now looks certain to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty by the end of March 2017, paving the way for an exit from the European Union within two years.
Brexit is on.
Assuming no delays or extensions to the exit process, this means that Britain will be out of the EU by April 2019 at the latest.
The only question now, seemingly, is what will it mean for the UK economy? Will it go to hell in a hand basket, or be something far less sinister than many currently fear?
It will almost certainly depend on the negotiations between the UK and the EU once Article 50 is triggered.
Now it’s not whether a Brexit will occur, but whether it will be “hard” or “soft”.
To help explain what exactly the terms mean, HSBC’s UK economics team of Simon Wells, Liz Martins and Douglas Lippoldt have produced this succinct and helpful table to explain the difference between the two, even breaking it down to an even granular level based on the relationship other nations have with the EU.
Here it is:
According to HSBC, broadly speaking, a soft exit refers to a solution where the UK maintains a high degree of tariff-free access to the single market and minimises the imposition of non-tariff barriers.
As to the other option, a hard Brexit, the bank suggests that it “implies a loss of access to the single market – ie, the imposition of tariff and non-tariff barriers on British goods and services”. By taking this approach, it says that “the UK would be free to deregulate its industry and impose any restrictions it wanted to on immigration”.
UK prime minister Theresa May recently said that outside the EU, the UK would be able to control its borders and that it should seek “the best possible deal” for single market access, suggesting that she is prepared to accept being outside the single market in order to control immigration, according to HSBC.
“On balance, the government seem to be signalling for now that the UK is prepared to accept a ‘harder’ exit, although it is difficult to know how much of this is posturing,” it says, adding that “given the political backdrop, the UK was unlikely to enter negotiations looking for a soft exit”.
It’s an experiment that has never been performed before, and one that is likely to come under even greater scrutiny the closer it gets to March 31 next year.
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