Why we need a Quick Brexit

Hard or Soft? Open or Closed? Red or Blue? If the UK had a couple of extra car factories or profitable steel plants for every type of Brexit that’s been argued for over the last few months, we would have to worry much less about the state of the economy. But there’s one version of Brexit that should be a far higher priority for everyone, and yet which is hardly ever mentioned. A Quick Brexit. The sooner we get this done, even if we don’t quite get all the details right, the better.

As anyone in business will tell you, sometimes it is just as important to get things done quickly as it is to get them completely right. That is why the technology industry releases 1.0 and 2.0 versions of its products – because they need to get them out there, and then tweak them later if necessary. We should try the same strategy with leaving the EU for three main reasons.

First, it will end the uncertainty. Despite the dire warnings last year, so far we have seen very little impact on business confidence in the UK. Most companies have carried on much as they did before the referendum result. The pound has stabilised, and the FTSE is hitting record highs. But that doesn’t mean disaster won’t strike one day, and the longer the negotiations are stretched out the worse it will be. If there are to be tariffs and customs checks, then the sooner everyone knows about them, and how onerous they will be, the faster they can start adjusting their export plans and supply lines to take account of them. 

Second, we can start planning for what comes next. What kind of trade policy do we want, where are the deals, and how do tax and regulation fit into that? There are lots of issues the UK will have to debate as we gradually repatriate powers from Brussels. If the EU does impose tariffs, we will have to decide whether to retaliate in kind or just take the moral high ground and declare unilateral free trade. We will need a debate on what kind of agricultural policy we want once we are out of the EU – do we subsidise production or just let the market decide? What kind of industrial policy do we want – protectionist or open? Those are all complex questions, and they are issues we have hardly discussed for decades. But we can’t start doing that until we know the terms of our departure. 

Finally, whatever we agree in this round of negotiations can always be improved upon later on. Leaving the EU was always likely to be a process rather than a single event. This time around, for example, we might decide to stay in the single market for a transitional period. We might concede control of financial regulation to help out the City, or we might let the European courts have some continuing jurisdiction over EU citizens who are already living here, if not on those that arrive in the years ahead. 

The odd £10bn on the exit bill, or some extra rights for EU citizens, don’t matter that much in the end. In truth, if we were willing to concede more than is probably fair on those two issues, then a Quick Brexit could be wrapped up by Christmas. That would probably involve the UK making some major concessions, and not asking for very much, if anything at all, from the other side.

But so what? Given the massive budget contributions we have made over the years, our huge trade deficit with the EU, and the one-sided nature of freedom of movement, the UK was on such a bad deal that whatever we agree with the EU will be an improvement. Once we have left, businesses will know where they are. And the rest of the country can get on with shaping its post-EU economy – far more useful than haggling endlessly over every last detail of our departure.

  • Jim Barber

    As it’s very clear that this will take years. Also getting the details right might be quite important too as its the future of 600 million peoples relationships and businesses we are talking about. What a truly stupid article.

  • John Anthony

    This is a short article but it is the most original commentary on the Brexit negotiations I have read so far. It makes sense. A quick exit wrapped up by Christmas would be excellent. Getting the essential controls back quickly would be decisive and stimulating, even if we have to concede more and pay over the odds in the short term, because dragging things out will only encourage endless quibbling. A bit of a wrench for some maybe and it will never be exactly right but let’s get it on the road and make adjustments as we go. And there may well be goodwill for the UK from many in Europe increasingly unhappy with EU cost and performance and its failure in several areas, including balancing the books and stopping mass migration.

    • Cynic_Rick

      Follow this link to obtain the most comprehensive commentary on Brexit related issues since we voted ‘Leave’ a year ago:


      The eBook obtainable is extremely modestly priced at £4.00 and is a unique reference work with a ‘word search’ facility and is comprised of almost half a million words; about 1,000 pages.

  • crazydave789

    we need a hard brexit to get the pain out of the way quickly, soft brexit is like QE for EU, money we will never get back. we have a minor crash then everyone realises the world hasn’t ended despite project fear and the mass of migrants haven’t fled because there’s nowhere for them to go. everything stays the same.

    it would be better if there was no EU to leave but if we reform the efta and create our own commonwealth based trading bloc of 2,3 billion to wind brussels up.

    free and low tariff trade without the massive fees to a uncontrollable wannabe central power. whats not to like?

    • Jim Barber

      You base this on what fact or study? There is no good scenario for hard Brexit and to trade on WTO rules would leave us with the same market access as Rawanda for an example, which given we do 53% of our trade with them does seem a bit rash. You are however called crazy Dave, and this goes some way to explaining.

  • crazydave789

    far better to come all the way out then see what we actually need from the EU.

    from the EU we need nothing, but we do need europe and the two are not the same.

  • bobbo christin

    Would you kindly send a copy of this to Me May,so much easier this plan than all the fannying about they’re carrying on at the moment.

  • Cynic_Rick

    Pete North has some optimism towards “a quick Brexit”; i.e. staying in the Single Market via Efta/EEA:



    “In that respect there is the possibility that I overreacted at the appointment of Steve Baker, who might well be serving only as a confidence trick to maintain the outward appearance that the hard liners are still being given a voice.

    In this, politically, it makes sense in that the government does not have to concede publicly to perusing a soft Brexit, rather it will happen as a consequence of Britain’s lack of leverage – and by this point, David Davis, being an astute player at times, will present this single market fudge as the right deal and the one we were after all along. Until then, he doesn’t want to spook the horses by saying the one thing that will depose Mrs May. “Soft Brexit”.”

  • LG

    Meanwhile the grown ups have already decided there will be no cliff edge catastrophe. The ‘transition period’ will be stretched out until all the elderly Brexiters have passed away and the UK can again sensibly negotiate a return to full membership. Of course the terms of membership will not be as good as we had, making Brexit the worst national act of sawing off ones own foot ever.

  • Chris Pennington

    Matthew, it’s a nice article to write but I don’t believe that you are really considering the consequences of rapidly leaving all the agreements that we have in place. My industry the Airline industry, very important for the UK. If we leave the EU with no agreement, British aircraft cannot operate to the EU and probably not to the U.S. Look at what happened when Europe’s airspace was shut down in 2010 for a week due to volcanic ash. One week was very economically damaging.
    The point is, if you’re not looking at the consequences to this industry then you’re probably not looking at the consequences to the vast majority of industries.
    Pragmatism must trump patriotism in this situation.

  • Caitlin Rogers

    But what I have read in an article about Brexit (https://www.funds-money.com/british-pound-sterling/) though there is a negative issues about this event still the sterling were able to soar in the midst of tension