Britain’s Norway Solution

LONDON – Shortly after UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call an unexpected “Brexit election,” I wrote that pro-Europeans in Britain might yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But the timescale I had in mind was five years, not five weeks.

How long May will survive as prime minister is impossible to predict. Her fate will depend on personal vendettas and Byzantine political rivalries, not only in London, but also in Edinburgh and Belfast. But in trying to anticipate the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the questions that matter no longer have much to do with May’s political survival.

Are Britain’s parliamentary arithmetic and public opinion moving in favor of or against the “hard Brexit” – a drastic clampdown on immigration and withdrawal from the European Union’s customs union, single market, and legal jurisdiction – planned by May before the election? And if Britons are turning against May’s agenda, will EU leaders offer them a face-saving compromise similar to that offered to Norway, which remains outside the EU’s institutional structures, but accepts most of the obligations and costs of EU membership in exchange for the commercial benefits of the single market?

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© Project Syndicate

© Project Syndicate

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