What's the difference between a Hard Brexit and a Soft Brexit?

The June 23 referendum result sent Britain heading towards the EU’s exit door.

But no country has left the EU before. What does it mean to quit as a members state?

Do we stay in stay in the single market or do we cut loose completely?

Two key options have emerged:

1. The Soft Brexit

Norway never joined the European Union but it is a full member of the single market and thus faces no tariffs. It belongs to the European Free Trade Association, alongside Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Switzerland (left) and Norway (right) are not EU members but have negotiated deals

What stops Norway being an attractive model for eurosceptics is that it has to make a contribution towards the EU Budget and accept free movement of workers.

Nevertheless, it is a priority for many people in the UK that the country secures full access to the single market, either through full membership or some form of deal.

Brexit Secretary David Davis’ refusal on Thursday to rule out paying to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market” was seen as sign that the UK Government’s position may be softening.

2. The Hard Brexit

This involves pulling out of the EU without securing special access to its markets for goods and services.

The UK would rely on World Trade Organisation rules in its dealing with its former EU partners. It could face 10% tariffs on exports and more checks and bureaucracy at ports and borders, potentially making it harder for exporters to make “just in time” deliveries.

Will delays at borders become more common outside the EU?

However, its supporters argue such a clean break with the EU would help establish the UK as a global trading nation and give the country back complete control of immigration policy.

Are these really the only options?

No. There are harder and softer alternatives.

Turkey is part of a customs union with the EU which allows tariff-free trade in industrial goods but not agriculture or services.

People wave national flags and an image of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during celebrations of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, now Istanbul

Supporters of free trade are unlikely to support such a deal with the EU because members of a customs union are required to apply common external tariffs.

And then there’s Canada

Another option is a British version of the trade deal that Canada has agreed with the EU which removes 99% of tariffs.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

However, it would be an astonishing achievement for the UK to have such a deal in place by the end of the two-year divorce process from the EU, which is due to be triggered by the end of March.

The Canadian deal took seven years to negotiate and was nearly scuppered by demands from the Belgian region of Wallonia. Senior EU figures are under pressure to stamp down on euroscepticism in their own states and are keen not to give the UK a better deal than the one it has today as a full member of the union.

Nevertheless, ardent supporters of Brexit argue that the top priority for EU states will be ensuring that nothing disrupts their own exports to Britain. If this is true, the Prime Minister will hope that attitudes among her EU counterparts will quickly soften once formal talks begin.

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