Lancaster professor’s take on ‘softer’ Brexit after election result

File photo dated 28/03/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signing the Article 50 letter. Mrs May has announced a snap general election during a statement in Downing Street, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 18, 2017. See PA story POLITICS May. Photo credit should read: Christopher Furlong/PA Wire
File photo dated 28/03/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signing the Article 50 letter. Mrs May has announced a snap general election during a statement in Downing Street, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 18, 2017. See PA story POLITICS May. Photo credit should read: Christopher Furlong/PA Wire

Economics professor Geraint Johnes has said the most likely outcome of the general election is a “softer Brexit” and the possibility of the UK staying in the EU Single Market.

Prof Johnes said an agreement with the Conservative Party, which did not win enough seats to form a government on its own, and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), will put the issue of the land border in Ireland to the forefront of negotiations with the EU.

He also said that the UK could end up with another general election “in a few months”.

Prof Johnes said: “With any hung parliament, you see parties having to compromise over what is in their manifesto.

“An agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP will put the issue of the land border in Ireland within the EU into focus, and will bring it right up front in terms of what the UK’s stance will be, and the negotiations about Brexit.

“It’s far too early to say with confidence what the implications will be.

“But one possibility is that if you look at the interests of the DUP in Northern Ireland they’re very concerned that there should remain flexibility to move across the border.

“It’s the only part of the UK that has a land border with the EU.

“That being the case, it would not be surprising that they would argue strongly for a softer Brexit than the last government was putting forward, so we may end up, if their agreement holds, staying in the Single Market.”

Prof Johnes said the issue would be a “real headache” for Theresa May, or whoever the leader and Prime Minister, and could result in the collapse of any agreement.

“So either you’re going to see the agreement collapse, or tensions within the conservative party which are going to be extremely difficult to manage.” he said.

“The most likely outcome is a softer Brexit than we were going to have.

“The economic consequences of a harder Brexit would be economically damaging.

“But there’s so much up in the air at the moment.

“It’s going to be harder for Britain to negotiate, and if we come to the end of Article 50, and we haven’t reached an agreement, we could end up ‘going over a cliff’.

“Staying in the Single Market would be a very good outcome.

“Alternatively, we can’t agree on anything, and we go off the edge of a cliff.

“Anything is possible, and it’s interesting times.”

Prof Johnes said that concessions will have to be made.

He said: “One possible concession is would it be possible to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market while the rest of the UK pulls out.

“But that just means shifting the border, and these kinds of arrangements are very complex.

“Absolutely anything is possible.

“We may end up with a new general election in a few months time. That’s not all that unlikely.

“It’s a very big issue for the people of Ireland.

“It’s quite possible to have some months of the Conservative led government that then collapses and then Labour would be asked to lead the government.”

Read more from Prof Geraint Johns HERE