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Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, Brexit has become something of a guessing game. Neither its timeline nor its contours are clear. That has spurred analysts, economists and political opponents to warn that Prime Minister Theresa May must ensure a soft Brexit to minimize the damage to the UK economy.
But May doesn’t seem to be listening. In an interview over the weekend, she hinted strongly at a hard Brexit. This was always on the cards. It would have been impossible to remain in the EU single market without making concessions on immigration—a politically touchy subject and one of the flashpoints of the referendum.
How this plays out will be as crucial to the EU as the UK. For all the dire predictions, the UK economy has weathered the initial storm relatively well. If this continues to be so after a hard Brexit, it will strengthen the EU’s political centrifugal forces. In a very real sense, for Brussels to remain strong, the UK must be seen to suffer economic pain.
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