Opinion

Brexit: When in doubt, slow down

Uncertainty over Brexit remains high despite looming deadlines. Here, the authors argue that the UK should take the necessary steps to make time to build consensus around the final shape of Brexit, and that the UK population should be consulted.

By: and Date: March 29, 2019 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

This article was published by La Voz de Galicia.

logo of newspaper la voz de galicia

The UK parliament continues to try to exclude the possibility of no-deal Brexit, but at the same time continues to fail to find a suitable alternative. This week’s results in the latest round of parliamentary votes just confirm that a hard Brexit remains the default position.

Up till now, Prime Minister May had attempted to use the threat of no-deal to persuade her soft-Brexiter MPs to vote for her deal, and the threat of no Brexit to persuade the hard Brexiters to do the same. None of these threats has proved effective and Mrs May’s deal is as good as dead.

This means that, in the current course, there couldn’t be a soft Brexit: there is either a hard Brexit or no Brexit. But this is a rather poor choice, given how divided the country now is. And it is precisely because it is a very poor choice that Parliament should not decide itself. Such a choice could only be put to the UK population, in particular as it is no longer possible to declare ignorance of what a UK outside the EU would mean.

Enter the rest of the EU into the game and we now have two possible extensions, following a request by the UK. In the event that Mrs May’s deal passes, then the UK will leave the EU on the 22nd of May; uncertainty is removed and continuity preserved.

Donald Tusk has argued repeatedly in the past few weeks that if the UK needs a longer time to reconsider what it wants, the EU should not stand in its way.

However, there is also now the possibility of a longer extension being granted, provided the UK participates in the European elections. By April 12th the UK needs to communicate whether it seeks to pursue that option and in what shape and form. European Council president Donald Tusk has argued repeatedly in the past few weeks that if the UK needs a longer time to reconsider what it wants, the EU should not stand in its way.

What we think Mr Tusk is trying to achieve is actually to change the default position from being a hard Brexit to (temporary) no Brexit. His line of thinking, in our view, is that if the UK cannot agree on what the way forward is, the very least it could do is consider its options from a point of stability (as a member of the EU).

It is the right thing to do when you are contemplating a change of direction but cannot reach an agreement and, worse still, there are deep divisions. Then take the time to consult the whole population, preferably through elections, in terms of what it wants before either continuing the course of hard Brexit or revoking article 50.

It seems to us that, one way or another, the UK needs to go back and consult its own people.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to communication@bruegel.org.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Where Brexit goes, the law shall follow

How the financial industry and the law firms that support it are preparing for what comes next

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 25, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

How comprehensive is the EU political realignment?

Has the left-right divide become obsolete in EU politics?

Speakers: David Amiel, Otilia Dhand, Nicolas Véron and Silke Wettach Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 25, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Jul
12
09:30

The 4th industrial revolution: opportunities and challenges for Europe and China

What is the current status of EU-China relations concerning innovation, and what might their future look like?

Speakers: Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Chen Dongxiao, Eric Cornuel, Ding Yuan, Jiang Jianqing, Pascal Lamy, Li Mingjun, Signe Ratso, Reinhilde Veugelers, Wang Hongjian, Guntram B. Wolff and Xu Bin Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

Soaring house prices in major cities: how to spot and moderate them

This article examines whether there are regional differences in house price growth within European countries and find a stronger cyclical pattern in capital cities compared to other regions, indicating a clear rationale for regional-level tools. The authors recommend using macro-prudential measures at a regional level, in particular loan-to-value and debt-to-income limits, to dampen the housing boom-bust cycle.

By: Grégory Claeys, Konstantinos Efstathiou and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 19, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

GNI-per-head rankings: The sad stories of Greece and Italy

No other country lost as many positions as Greece and Italy in the rankings of European countries by Gross National Income per head, between 1990 and 2017. The tentative conclusion here is that more complex, country-specific stories – beyond the euro, or the specific euro-area fiscal rules – are needed to explain these individual performances.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 18, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Brief

A strategic agenda for the new EU leadership

Memo to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament. 'A strategic agenda for the new EU leadership' by Maria Demertzis, André Sapir and Guntram Wolff is the first of our 2019 Bruegel memos to the new presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Focusing on the most important economic questions at EU level, these Bruegel memos are intended to be a strategic to-do list, outlining the state of affairs that will greet the new Commission.

By: Maria Demertzis, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 13, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Past, present, and future EU trade policy: a conversation with Commissioner Malmström

What was trade policy during the last European Commission? What will be the future of European trade under the next Commission?

Speakers: Cecilia Malmström, André Sapir and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 13, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

External Publication

Liability: When Things Go Wrong in an Increasingly Interconnected and Autonomous World: A European View

In the following article, Scott Marcus first considers the sources of potential defects and what might be done to redress them. He then goes on to consider what constitutes a product defect as well as the associated liability in light of recent (and potential future) EU Directives.

By: J. Scott Marcus Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: June 6, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Europe’s citizens say they want a more political EU

The recent European Parliament election suggests that a growing share of European voters sees things differently from national governments. Whereas citizens clearly used their votes to express policy preferences, very few governments are ready for a more political EU leadership.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 4, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director's Cut: Reflections on the European elections

Bruegel director Guntram Wolff hosts Ferdinando Giugliano, columnist for Bloomberg and La Repubblica, and Krzysztof Blusz, political analyst and senior fellow at WiseEuropa – Centre for European Strategy, for a discussion about the results of the European elections, both across Europe and within the states of Italy and Poland.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 29, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Backstage: The EU financial services landscape after Brexit

Bruegel fellows Rebecca Christie and Nicolas Véron discuss how the map of the EU's financial services industry has begun to change, and how it might eventually settle.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: April 30, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The emerging new geography of financial centers in Europe

What shape is the new financial continent of Europe?

Speakers: Rebecca Christie, Valerie Herzberg, Nicolas Véron and William Wright Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 29, 2019
Load more posts