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THE ECONOMIST. WHY SOFTER IS BETTER... and ever more likely

Britain is heading for a soft Brexit

WHY SOFTER IS BETTER rThe logic of the Irish border is forcing Britain towards a close relationship with the EU

WHEN Britons voted to leave the European Union two years ago, they had no chance to say what sort of Brexit they wanted. But Theresa May, who became prime minister in the aftermath of the referendum, quickly decided that they wanted the most drastic break possible. Without consulting her cabinet, let alone Parliament, she announced “red lines” for her negotiation with Brussels that put Britain on course for the fullest of separations.

This “hard” Brexit—in which Britain would free itself from the clutches of European judges, trade policy and migration rules, at significant cost to its economy and security—has long looked inevitable. Parliament’s resistance to Mrs May’s extreme plan has been timid and the Labour opposition feeble. Yet this week the tide turned. Rebel Tory MPs look likely to wrest control of Brexit’s endgame from the government (see Britain section). Meanwhile, the penny dropped among Brexiteers that the Irish border presents a near-insurmountable roadblock to a hard exit. With less than six months of negotiating time left, it is becoming clear that Brexit will be softer than Mrs May set out. That is good news for Europe and for Britain.

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