Is the uncompromising stance of the other EU leaders pushing the UK towards a hard Brexit?

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Whose fault would a hard Brexit be? (Source: Getty)

Rachel Cunliffe, deputy editor of Reaction, says Yes.

First the European President decided to lecture Britain that it was “hard Brexit” or “no Brexit". Then the Prime Minister of Malta (that European powerhouse) felt the need to reiterate that the EU is “not bluffing” about barring the UK from the Single Market.

Such posturing only serves to discourage moderates from wasting political capital on a lost cause, while energising hard Brexiteers who would rather the UK had nothing to do with the EU ever again.

“Look how unreasonable these people are”, they shout. “There’s no point negotiating. Let’s just leave and get on with it.”

In fact, a strong and harmonious relationship between Britain and the EU is hugely beneficial for both parties. EU ideals are not set in stone and some – such as freedom of movement – clearly need updating anyway.

Take the emotion away, and both sides know they are objectively better off united. But provocation from the extremes is whittling down the opportunity and energy for compromise. It must end before it’s too late.

Denis MacShane, the former minister of Europe, author of Brexit: How Britain Left Europe, and senior adviser at Avisa Partners, Brussels, says No.

The leaders of Europe as well as officials in Brussels are neither pushing nor seeking to punish the UK for voting to leave the European Union.

The UK government has tried to keep its plans for its departure secret from Parliament and the public. The High Court has said that Parliament must be consulted on the terms of Brexit. When that happens, perhaps we and the rest of Europe will know what exactly is meant by “Brexit means Brexit”.

Until then, however, the 27 national leaders in the EU are helpless. All they have said is that it is up the UK. They will simply obey the rules of the Treaty they solemnly signed. As Michel Barnier, the EU Commission negotiator, told me: “there will be no aggressivity, no confrontation. I will simply defend the interests of the 27.”

The UK has repudiated the EU, not the other way around. The decisions on a hard, soft, or any kind of Brexit are entirely in our own hands.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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