Nov 7, 2019 - World

The U.K. may not escape Brexit limbo even after the election

illustration of the U.K. flaf all broken up

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.K. is now in election mode, with Parliament having been dissolved and the U.K. press running banner headlines about, um, kulaks.

The state of play: More than 60 MPs have decided not to run for re-election given the toxicity of the current political debate.

Britain is due to leave the EU on Jan. 31. If it does so on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's terms, it will then enter a transitional period, during which it will have to negotiate a trade agreement with the rest of Europe. That's a lot easier said than done.

One possible result is so-called Brino:

"When Brexiter trade fantasies crash into reality, expect a new scenario to emerge: Brino (Brexit in name only) for now. Brino entails the U.K. leaving the EU but staying in the single market and customs union, and paying into the European budget, until it can devise a beneficial Brexit. Since there isn’t one, Brino could stick for years."
Simon Kuper, writing in the Financial Times

The Brino scenario is the closest thing that Britain can get to "Remain" while still technically leaving the EU. Johnson is adamant that he won't let that happen, but it's not clear that he'll be able to command enough of a majority to get what he wants.

The bottom line: No one particularly expects Johnson to stick to his promises, especially if he remains prime minister of a minority government. An exit fudge whereby Britain leaves in name only, with constant extensions for further trade negotiations, would be a very European solution to the Brexit conundrum.

Go deeper