The EU doesn’t need to make things difficult

As the European Union prepares for Brexit negotiations, and the realities of Brexit become clearer to the UK, many seem to have realised that negotiations are not going to be the walkover promised by the Leave campaign.

Brexit supporters are already trying to pin the blame on European leaders, with the Telegraph claiming that EU officials “believe Britain will give up on Brexit if they make negotiations tough enough”. According to the newspaper, the appointment of lead negotiators — former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt and former French foreign minister Michel Barnier for Parliament and Commission respectively — already proves that the EU is determined to drive a hard bargain.

But there’s no need for the EU to make any effort to ensure Brexit negotiations are tough for the UK. We are doing that ourselves by wanting better treatment as a non-member than we have as a member. In reality, we face the unpalatable choice between aiming for full access to the single market (at the price of following the same rules as everyone else in that market, including free movement) or leaving it entirely (at the cost of Britain facing tariffs and regulatory barriers to its main export market, taking a massive economic hit).

Whether and how Brexit happens will depend not on some EU ploy to reverse the decision, but rather on whether the British government and UK electorate still wish to proceed once the reality becomes clear.

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