One step forward, two steps back: Towards no deal by default or design

28 January 2019
Fabian Zuleeg (Chief Executive and Chief Economist)

The UK political system is in a deadlock. Its politicians are unable to make a decision between the different Brexit options on the table, with a high degree of uncertainty of what will happen next. The final outcome is far from clear: while many UK politicians reiterate that there is no majority for a no-deal scenario, it remains the most likely outcome, by default or by design.

Next steps might include extending or revoking Article 50, a second referendum, Parliament taking control of the process, an ultra-soft Brexit in the form of a Norway+/customs union agreement, or a hard deal after all. But each of these options faces seemingly unsurmountable hurdles, not least of which are deep political and societal polarisation in the UK and the need to get all EU27 on board.

To prevent the worst-case scenario, more time is needed to find an alternative that can command a majority in the House of Commons and is compatible with the principles of the EU. This will require statesmanship on the UK side: sacrificing short-term party objectives and one’s own political future for the greater good. But how likely is that, given the current political leadership?

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