Friday, 14 October 2016

Soft Brexit or Hard Brexit? It's a false choice

Today's vote in Wallonia against an EU-Canada free trade deal makes it painfully clear - Europeans will not approve any arrangement that lets Britain have its cake and eat it too.

Over the past weeks, people in the UK have been engaged in a tortured debate - should we have a "hard Brexit" or a "soft Brexit"?

A hard Brexit, viewed by most people (even the Brexiteers) as the worst outcome, would mean that the UK cuts economic ties with Europe, and continues to trade with the EU only on WTO terms. In other words, the UK is left with the same relationship with the EU enjoyed by Morocco.

A 'soft Brexit' would mean the UK retains market access while formally leaving the EU. This would occur either by the UK joining the EEA (à la Norway and Iceland) or negotiating bilateral treaties (à la Switzerland). Either of the latter two options would involve compromise. Crucially, the EU has made clear that the UK can't have either of these "soft Brexit" scenarios without maintaining freedom of movement (the ability for EU citizens to live and work in any EU country).

Friday, 7 October 2016

"I hate Britain, but I love Brits"

British people are going to have to get used to their new most-hated-nation status. As an American in Europe, I can give some tips on how to endure it.

"I hate America, but I love Americans". It's a line I've heard so many times in the past decade of living in Europe that I barely notice it any more.

I got it particularly often when I first moved to Europe in 2006. It was just three years since the launch of the Iraq War, which the vast majority of Europeans opposed. George W. Bush, immensely unpopular in Europe, was still the president. I had to face down a lot of hostility toward the country I came from.

But usually, after an energetic rant against the crimes of America, the person speaking to me would finish by saying something like, "but I love Americans. They're so creative, so full of energy. I love their TV and movies. I just don't understand how these same people can vote for leaders like this."