UK has nothing to fear from a 'bare bones' Brexit deal

Much of the discussion of a ‘no deal’ Brexit has focussed on a chaotic outcome where talks break up without any agreements on the future relationship. However, this outcome would be so bad for all parties that it is highly unlikely. A more credible scenario would involve the UK leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union in March 2019, but still allow for continued cooperation in many other areas. This could be called a ‘bare bones’ Brexit. There are four reasons why this is a serious runner:

  • First, the UK and the EU would not be starting from scratch. In almost all cases it would be a question of agreeing that existing arrangements are satisfactory.



  • Second, the EU already cooperates closely with many third countries that are not even in Europe – including in sensitive areas such as aviation and nuclear technology.



  • Third, both sides will surely want to make this work. Would EU politicians really be willing to forego the rights of their airlines to fly to the UK, or block the vital trade in medical isotopes, just to punish us for the audacity of Brexit?



  • Fourth, there is much that can be done unilaterally. In particular, the UK could simply go ahead and implement its proposals on citizens’ rights. This would put the onus on the EU to reciprocate, but why wouldn’t they? Again, what would the alternative say about our European partners?


Any form of ‘no deal’ Brexit would surely still be a second best, given the short timescales involved. But it needn’t be the Halloween nightmare that many seem to fear.

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Julian Jessop is Chief Economist at the IEA. He has thirty years of experience as a professional economist in the public and private sectors, including senior positions at HM Treasury, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank. Prior to joining the IEA in March he was a Director and Chief Global Economist at the leading independent consultancy, Capital Economics. Julian has a First Class degree in economics from Cambridge University and post-graduate qualifications in both economics and law.