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‘Clean Brexit’ sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Trouble is, it doesn’t exist

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No deal is back in vogue – to the extent that it ever fell out of fashion. As Theresa May nears the end, the chancellor Philip Hammond is warning of the risk of a “new prime minister abandoning the search for a deal, and shifting towards a damaging no-deal exit as a matter of policy”.

Richard Tice, chairman of the Brexit party, was banging the no-deal drum on the Today programme earlier this week, arguing that a “clean Brexit” (sounds appealing, doesn’t it?) would work out just fine because of the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty.

Should his party perform as well as expected in the European elections, expect calls for such an outcome to be redoubled. More and more Conservative MPs will jump on the bandwagon and argue that just getting out of the EU, even with no withdrawal deal, is the only way ahead.

This analysis is fatally flawed. It rests on assumptions – dubious, at best –that allow the impact of a so-called clean Brexit to be fundamentally misrepresented. Here’s why.

By definition, “no deal” means the UK leaves the EU without signing the article 50 withdrawal agreement (Theresa May’s deal). Unlike a business deal, it absolutely does not mean carrying on as before (as is generally the case when commercial negotiations fail). Rather, no deal means that many of those laws that govern our interaction with the EU will cease to apply to us. However well both we and the EU prepare contingency plans, this will mean significant problems when it comes to, among other things, travel and trade. Not a good look for any governing party (hence all the more curious that there are Tory MPs who think it should be government policy).

Then there is the “no trade deal” scenario. This is different from no deal as it may come about if the UK signs up to the withdrawal agreement but then fails to strike a trade deal with the EU governing future arrangements.

The reason the two kinds of no-deal outcome are often confused is that the withdrawal agreement contains the........

© The Guardian