Former British Prime Minister Theresa May never went to great lengths to prepare for crashing out of the European Union (EU) without a deal in a so-called "hard Brexit" because a hard Brexit is unthinkable.
In a hard Brexit, trade and services would slow to a crawl as every single package and every person that crosses the English channel between Britain and mainland Europe would have to pass through customs and immigration. That's what it means to lose the freedom of movement enjoyed by members of the EU. Citizens of the EU can cross from one side of the continent to the other without borders and without exchanging currency.
EU membership is a great privilege that new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly preparing to dump regardless of the consequences and even if he has to suspend British parliament to do it.
The British press reported over the weekend that Johnson has formed a "war" cabinet whose only assignment is to prepare for a hard Brexit.
Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, a key leader in the 2016 Brexit campaign, called advisers to the prime minister’s residence Friday night and told them Brexit will happen “by any means necessary,” the Times said. Cummings said Johnson is prepared to suspend Parliament or hold an election to thwart those who may seek to block a no-deal Brexit.
Michael Gove, a Johnson ally writing in the Times, said all agencies will work “flat-out” to prepare to leave without an agreement on the future U.K.-EU relationship, and he hopes Brussels will reconsider its decision against reopening talks. “We still hope they will change their minds, but must operate on the assumption that they will not,” he wrote. Gove will lead daily meetings -- weekends included -- of civil servants and advisers until ties with the EU are cut, the newspaper said.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said he’s stepping up preparations for no deal, including adding extra border control forces and one of the “biggest ever” public information campaigns. “All necessary funding will be made available to ensure” the country is ready for departure from the bloc, he said.
It's still difficult to imagine that a hard Brexit will actually happen, but we have to consider the very real possibility that it will now that Boris Johnson is prime minister and the final seal to hell has been opened.
Although the United Kingdom would obviously be harmed the most by a hard Brexit, the consequences will be global as markets reel from the shock of it and investors flee to higher ground.
The idea that Britain will be able to swiftly replace EU membership by signing a free trade deal with the Trump regime is so absurd it's difficult to even type this with a straight face. Because even if you assumed that a trade deal could be hammered out without a few months rather than years, it could never replace the freedom of movement Britain will be giving up by crashing out of the EU without so much as remaining a member of the EU's customs union.
The consequences of a hard Brexit could be so severe that even members of the United Kingdom may seriously consider seceding to rejoin the European Union. Scotland is already considering a public referendum on independence. And why shouldn't they?