The Terms 'Hard' And Soft Brexit Are Meaningless - We Either Leave Or We Don't

27/01/2017 12:50 GMT | Updated 28/01/2018 10:12 GMT
altamira83 via Getty Images

In Theresa May's speech on Brexit last week, in which she asserted that Britain will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, she was met by many politicians and journalists with disdain.

She was denounced for pursuing the 'hardest of Brexits', and was accused by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron of 'betraying' the British people. A democrat he is not.

However, to lambast Mrs May for pursuing a 'hard Brexit', as if it is something entirely unexpected and terrible, is to woefully misrepresent what leaving the EU has to entail if it is to result in meaningful change from the status quo.

So far as I've been able to work out from the bleating within the media and on my Facebook newsfeed, a 'hard' Brexit means leaving the single market and customs union, an apparently irredeemably terrible scenario, whilst 'soft' Brexit means 'leaving' the EU but remaining a member of the former and the latter.

However, if we ostensibly leave the EU only to remain as members of both the single market and the customs union, then we have to abide by all the rules and regulations of membership of both entities, which includes maintaining the free movement of people, and not being able to strike our own trade deals.

Surely those on the Remain side of the fence would accept that this would be far worse than our current arrangement, in that it would leave us in the same situation but with absolutely zero capacity to change anything. In other words, it would constitute not leaving the EU.

On that basis then, just to be clear for those who still are prone to wilfully misunderstanding the arguments, we have to leave the single market and the customs union in order to properly leave the EU. Even if that is not what you voted for, it is surely beyond obvious that that is what leaving entails?

Further, some have touted the ridiculous notion that 'The People' didn't vote to leave the single market, and therefore to leave it is to go against the will of the people. It is a curious assertion, given that nearly every prominent member of both the Remain and Leave campaigns said in public that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the Single Market.

Tim Farron, in his piece in The Guardian in which he accused Theresa May of betraying the British people, wrote that 'polls show that 90% of voters want Britain to remain in the single market'.

I followed the link to the poll, and in fact it doesn't say that. Rather, it says that, 'nine in ten people would like free trade with EU countries to continue' but also - and Farron's piece didn't mention this - that 'as many as seven in ten (70%) think the UK should be able to limit the number of people from the EU who come here to live and work'.

As you can see, wanting to continue freely trading with European countries is categorically not the same thing as wanting to remain inside the single market, and there is no reason why Britain will not be able to freely trade with European countries after it leaves.

Further, it is quite clear from the latter point about voters wanting controls on immigration that, at the very least, leavers did not vote to remain within the single market whilst still wanting to leave the EU, because that would have entailed accepting free movement, to which they were clearly opposed.

So, what is the motivation of the likes of Farron? Well it's quite clear, they want to subvert June's democratic vote, and instead of going about it honestly, they are using made-up terms to advance their agenda.

They want to make it appear that the Government is now pursuing a path that the people didn't vote for, when in fact the exact opposite is the case.

I'm sure that most journalists and politicians who continue to use the hard/soft dichotomy are probably more astute than myself, I'm also sure they are just as aware as I am that the terms are meaningless. We either leave or we don't, and the people voted to leave.