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Relationship with the EU

This fact was correct when it was updated on 21 Sep 2020

What is Soft Brexit?

Brexit could have taken many forms. Advocates of a ‘soft Brexit’ would have sought to retain a close relationship with the EU, staying inside the EU’s single market or in the European customs union, or both. This would have reduced the economic impact of leaving the EU. However, staying in the single market would have meant maintaining free movement of EU citizens, remaining subject to judgements of the European Court of Justice and making a contribution (though at a lower level) to the EU budget. If the UK had chosen to remain in the customs union, it would have also hampered its ability to pursue an independent trade policy. As part of the Withdrawal Agreement reached by Boris Johnson, Northern Ireland will be part of the EU’s single market for goods after Brexit, so could be argued to be having a ‘softer’ Brexit, although at the price of making trade with Great Britain harder.

For more on Norway’s arrangement see our fact profile here, and for the customs union, see our explanation here.

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