Can London pull off a hard Brexit?

A leaked British Treasury report warns that Britain would lose billions of euros per year as a result of a hard Brexit. But this didn't stop Prime Minister Theresa May from announcing a hard break with the EU last week. Commentators discuss the consequences and say it's not too late for Britain to change course.

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Observador (PT) /

Brexit won't happen anyway

It is now regarded as a certainty that Brexit will hurt the British - therefore it won't happen, Paulo de Almeida Sande suspects in Observador:

“There were times when I believed more in the Brexit. But today I would risk saying that Britain won't leave the EU. If it does, the conditions for the country will without doubt for the most part be unfavourable. … The decline of the pound is just a symptom - and Brexit hasn't even happened yet. A big question mark hangs over the issue of what would happen then - no one knows. … Britain has left and is already halfway on the path to its destination - a path towards uncertainty. … But it isn't too late yet for it to return to the most exciting, daring and humanistic project that man has ever conceived.”

The Economist (GB) /

London can still change course

Britain should try to remain as closely tied to the EU as possible to prevent economic collapse, The Economist urges:

“The cause of sterling’s fall is the realisation that Theresa May’s government is moving towards a 'hard' Brexit, which involves Britain leaving the European Union’s customs union and its single market. It is also driven by the fear that Britain is turning into a xenophobic, interventionist and unpredictable place, with calls to clamp down on foreign workers and foreign capital. .... The overwhelming weight of evidence shows that leaving the customs union and single market would exact a heavy toll on Britain’s economy. Remaining within them would require political courage, but has clear economic benefits. It is not too late to change course.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Trade gap will break the country's neck

The British pound hit a 31-year low on Tuesday but rose slightly again on Wednesday. The British economy will be the main casualty of a hard Brexit, La Stampa warns:

“Brexiters love to hear the stories about shopping foreigners, and with good reason: the spending of the tourists, their meals and overnight accommodation are helping to keep the British economy afloat. And it's also true that exports have gone up thanks to the weak pound. But that won't be enough. The United Kingdom has a substantial trade deficit. … It imports far more than it exports. Under such conditions a weak currency is unfavourable because it drives up the price of imports, boosts inflation and reduces consumer buying power. The export trade can't compensate for all this because it accounts for just a third of Britain's gross domestic product. The rest comes from consumption, investments and other activities that won't benefit from the weak currency.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

More sovereignty illusory

Britain will hardly be able to attain more sovereignty through Brexit, writes Guntram B. Wolff, director of the think tank Bruegel, in a guest commentary for Rzeczpospolita:

“The prime minister has announced that her government will automatically incorporate all EU laws into British legislation. Consequently British law will be identical to EU law once the Brexit is completed. ... This, however, would mean that Britain must strictly adhere to EU guidelines so as to keep any emerging discrepancies to a minimum. ... Yet in such a scenario any notion of Britain regaining its sovereignty is just an illusion.”

The Guardian (GB) /

EU will decide what form Brexit takes

EU critics in London are very mistaken if they believe the British government can dictate the terms of its future relations with the EU, The Guardian observes:

“For the many friends and admirers that Britain still has in Europe, these must be trying times. Some of them might have expected the UK to be engaged by now in a serious and wide-ranging debate on how to mend fences with its so-much-bigger brother across the Channel. Instead, Britain is losing itself in delusional grandstanding, talking about itself to itself. ... The EU will defend its national and continental interests with as much vigour as Britain will. And, since the EU is more than seven times bigger, it will impose its will. ... Brexit will mean what the EU decides it means.”

ABC (ES) /

May only making things worse

Rather than trying to pour oil on troubled waters May is only adding fuel to the fire, ABC rails:

“The British prime minister apparently still hasn't understood how disastrous the situation of her country is after the Brexit referendum. … Her real mission should have been to minimize the potential damage during the transition from EU membership to the uncharted territory her country is heading for. Instead, however, Theresa May has committed to extending and reinforcing the populist nationalism that led the British into this crisis, as if in a belated attempt to justify the result brought about by Ukip. Her announcements about counting the number of foreigners in businesses and schools - which she later reluctantly modified - are indicative of a xenophobia we believed had long since been overcome in Europe.”