May: Hard Brexit It Is

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered an uncompromising “hard Brexit” speech today, vowing to leave the EU without hesitation if a good deal is not looming. Rejecting a “half-in, half-out” agreement, she said she would seek to leave the EU’s common market, and instead to negotiate an as-yet unspecified “customs agreement” with the rest of the bloc. The free movement of people will definitively end (though not with Ireland), and Britain will reject the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. “Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast,” May said. “And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.”

May’s speech, coming on the heels of an interview President-elect Donald Trump gave to the German Bild and the Times of London in which he promised that the United States would give the UK a trade deal “very quickly”, sent the  pound soaring.

At time of writing, there hasn’t yet been much reaction to May’s speech around Europe. Trump’s interview, on the other hand, has ruffled feathers. Several European leaders swore that Trump’s intervention would help strengthen ties in the bloc. Others were in denial. “Having an [U.S.] administration that hopes for the dismantling of Europe is simply not possible,” Pierre Moscovici, European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs, said. “I don’t accept this vision of things.”

Acceptance, unfortunately, has nothing to do with it, and Trump’s intervention may not be the glue European leaders are looking for. Hungary’s foreign minister sees things quite differently:

“We are interested in a fair Brexit, we are interested in a solution which will ensure a strong and tight mutually beneficial economic cooperation,” Péter Szijjártó told reporters during a break in a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

However, he warned that without cooperation with Britain the rest of the Continent could find itself “in a very, very unfavorable position” particularly given the likelihood of the U.S. and the U.K. agreeing some kind of economic cooperation. […]

Szijjártó’s concern does not only involve a potential bilateral deal with the U.S.

“I have seen the announcement, after the last visit of [British Foreign Secretary] Boris Johnson to Turkey, that their intention is to sign a jumbo-type free trade agreement with Turkey,” Szijjártó said. “So if the U.K. will be able to sign economic and trade agreements with many serious actors of the world economy, and [at the same time] if the EU is not able to build this kind of cooperation with the U.K., then is going to be a very unfavorable position for us.”

Since the election, Trump transition officials had asked EU leaders which country would be next to leave the bloc, and President Trump is unlikely to stop his anti-EU cheerleading once in office later this week. If Brexit works well for Britain, look to some other wavering countries to start looking at their options. Once that happens, all bets really are off.

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