Hard Brexit objective prompts mixed reactions of fears, hopes in Britain

2017-01-19 14:40:00 GMT2017-01-19 22:40:00(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

LONDON, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Britain's latest clearance of its "hard Brexit" objective has triggered a mixed reactions in Britain, ranging from concerns of national division to hopes of a better "post-Brexit" tomorrow.

In a decisive speech on Tuesday that sets a course for a clean break with the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to quit the European single market and seek a free trade agreement with the EU.

She also pledged to restrict access to Britain by EU citizens and end the jurisdiction in Britain of the European Court of Justice.

The 12-point blueprint was dubbed a "hard Brexit".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that Britain seeking a hard Brexit from the European Union would be a disaster and risks ripping the country apart.

Privileged access to the European single market is critical, especially for London, says the city's Labor Party, a staunch supporter of Britain remaining as a member of the EU family.

Others disagree, saying Britain quitting the single market and the strict rules that go along with membership of one of the world's biggest trading blocks will act as an economic breath of fresh air for the British economy.

Before last June's national referendum, Britain was divided into those wanting to remain in the EU and those wanting to leave. The latter won in the voting with a 52-48 margin.

Following Theresa May's keynote speech on Tuesday, the big dividing question is whether there should be a hard or soft Brexit.

May said Britain will quit the single market, but she insists she wants a deal that gives free access to European markets, in return for free access to British markets for EU businesses.

The sticking point is the rules that go hand-in-hand with full membership of the EU single market -- free movement across member states for all European nationals, and working within rules and laws set in Brussels.

Renowned British economist and eurosceptic Professor, Patrick Minford, describes the EU as a protectionist Customs Union.

He backs May's hard Brexit approach, saying Britain pursuing deals that create zero trade barriers would bring down our consumer prices and create home competition.

One route could be Britain independently eliminating trade barriers created by the EU on Britain's behalf and go on to do broad trade agreements with Brussels on property rights, investment and services afterwards.

Another option would be for Britain to do free trade agreements with the EU and then the rest of the world, avoiding at all costs a trade war.

Mayor Khan, on the other hand, insists a "hard Brexit would be a lose-lose situation". "A hard-line approach could rip Britain apart," he said.

"If we continue on this path, towards a 'Hard Brexit', we risk having to explain to future generations why we knowingly put their economy, their prosperity and their place on the world stage in such peril," Khan said.

Khan called on businesses and organizations across Europe to make the case to their political leaders for a Brexit deal that works for both Britain and the EU.

He also urged global cities to take urgent pro-active steps to build stronger and more integrated communities, to tackle the rise of populism and the threat of more countries leaving the EU.

Khan gave a stark warning to EU member states about the consequences of people across the world feeling left behind or side-lined.

"Many people who voted to leave the EU did so because of unease about the change they've experienced in recent decades.

"This economic and social divide is not unique to Britain. Without a concerted response, it will spread further.

"My warning is this: if many of your countries held an EU referendum tomorrow, it could go the same way as ours. This is an existential threat to the EU -- that we must combat together," he said.

"Leave means Leave", the group set up to campaign for a hard Brexit, has called on May to ignore attempts by big businesses and the banks to keep Britain in the EU "by the back door".

The European customs union has been bad for Britain leading to higher food prices among other things, said a spokesman for the organization.

"Remaining in it, even partially, would be a disaster; it would undermine the huge potential benefits of Brexit: cheaper weekly food bills and new trade deals with non EU countries," said the spokesman.

Meanwhile on the opposing side, Open Britain, campaigning to stay in the single market has criticized Theresa May for taking the single market off the negotiating table before talks have even started.

On the question of how Europe should respond to a hard Brexit, Prof. Erika Harris, co-director co-director of the Europe and the World Center at the University of Liverpool, has some words of advice for Brussels.

"They should seek its own best deal," she says.

"The EU's response should not be apologetic and shrinking, but confident in its future and principles that underpin it," she says.

The mixed bag of views, hopes and fears, all point to a roller-coaster ride when the negotiations for Britain's exit start early in April.

May has indicated that Britain will trigger Article 50, the formal procedure by which an EU member state notifies the European Council that it intends to leave the block, by the end of March.

Once triggered, Article 50 requires "divorce" negotiations to be completed within two years.