Is Britain set for hard Brexit?

British Prime Minister Theresa May apparently wants to take the UK out of the single market and the customs union, allowing Britain to decide its own immigration policy independently in future. May plans to present her Brexit strategy on Tuesday, but elements of her speech have leaked out and are already being critically assessed by the media.

Open/close all quotes
Financial Times (GB) /

May all fired up over immigration

Theresa May's primary political objective is to reduce immigration to Britain and this can only be achieved with a hard Brexit, the Financial Times writes:

“What we have heard from the government means that Britain is on track for a clean break from the EU; a 'hard' Brexit, even if Mrs May does not recognise the term. ... There is a simple calculation influencing Downing Street’s thinking about Brexit: if the centre-right does not get around to reforming Britain’s immigration policy to reduce overall numbers, then the hard right will. After years of struggling to reduce net migration while at the Home Office, Mrs May sees Brexit as a golden opportunity to do this. Immigration therefore comes above all else.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

UK's unity in jeopardy

The triumph of the Brexit hardliners is jeopardising the unity of the UK, Tages-Anzeiger comments:

“May has always interpreted the narrow pro-Brexit result in the referendum as an expression of national anger over immigration. If this leads to a clean break from Europe it would be a bitter defeat for all those - including members of government - who called for a softer approach, for maintaining ties with the neighbours. … At this stage it's impossible to say what exactly a 'hard' Brexit would mean for the cohesion of the United Kingdom. After Scotland's nationalists had offered to keep quiet in the event of a 'soft' Brexit the demands for Scottish independence have now once again been pushed onto the agenda. Ireland is already in a state of panic - particularly as everything is starting to go downhill in Northern Ireland.”

Blog David McWilliams (IE) /

Ireland must not get too close to Brussels

In view of its close ties to the UK, Ireland must be wary of blindly pursuing a pro-EU policy, economist David McWilliams warns on his blog:

“Because of history, geography and culture, we and the British are intertwined. ... What is in Ireland’s interest is to remain as open as possible to all sides. … This means that we need to object to further EU integration. If our political class embeds us too closely with the Europhiles of Brussels, the people will not accept it. The population is much less pro-European than the political, media and bureaucratic elite. If the conventional wisdom pulls us too far in one direction - the European one - it will swing back and the other end of the spectrum is Irexit - now who wants that?”