When Prime Minister Theresa May repeats her favourite incantation – “Brexit Means Brexit” – what does she actually mean? As Whitehall struggles to come up with a plan for Brexit, and hires an extra 30,000 civil servants to prepare for life outside the EU, it may be more helpful to see Brexit not in the singular but as a plural concept. There are many separate Brexits that can be identified.
1. Political Brexit
This the end of the UK’s formal participation in the European Union. No more commissioners, no more MEPs, no automatic transmission into UK law of EU directives. Only the House of Commons will decide how Britain is governed after Brexit.
2. Single market Brexit
This is the end of full unfettered access to the EU’s single market of 450 million customers. It is possible to be outside the political EU but stay in the Single Market like Norway and Switzerland.
3. Customs union Brexit
Leaving the EU customs union would require every good or components in goods destined for sale in Europe to be customs cleared. Turkey is not in the political EU, but is in the EU customs union.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
4. Frexit Brexit
Alain Juppé is the latest of the French centre-right candidates looking to succeed François Hollande to insist that our border with France be moved to British soil.
5. Free movement Brexit
Ukip and the Conservatives have made the number of EU citizens in the UK a number one domestic political issue this century. Imposing a cumbersome bureaucracy of quotas, seasonal work permits, travel visas or regional work permits, such as a passport stamp for the City, will be expensive and alienate other governments, who will resent such discrimination against their voters.
6. Geo-political Brexit
For the Kremlin, seeing Europe revert to disunited nation states has been a long-standing strategic goal. As Donald Trump’s election rhetoric risks the US reverting to neo-isolationism too, can Britain retain a global role if utterly disconnected from Europe?
7. Policing and security Brexit
Can the UK stay in the post-national networks of information exchange and policing once Britain has left political Europe? We don't know.
8. Environmental Brexit
Many (though not all) pro-Brexit Eurosceptics are also climate change sceptics. Does the UK give up its leadership role in shaping environmental politics in Europe when it leaves the EU? British ministers and elected politicians will certainly no longer play a role in EU policy-making.
9. Expat Brexit
There are an estimated two million Britons living, working or retired, in other EU member states – with a concentration in nearby EU nations such as Spain and France. In Spain, a non-EU citizen who wants to drive must pass a practical and written test in Spanish. British expats may see their present and future rights evaporate as Britain turns against European citizens in the UK.
There's also the possibility of one more: a human rights Brexit. May says that British judges must now decide all British law and the European Court of Justice – largely a commercial and administrative tribunal should have no place in Britain. But it is the European Court of Human Rights linked the Council of Europe, set up by Winston Churchill, which is the supranational court which most imposes its rulings on British judges. So after political Brexit from the EU, does a Brexit from the ECHR not logically follow? We'll hear more from our Prime Minister on that next year.
So there are many types of Brexit that will have to be debated and decided. The impact of Brexit on our close neighbour Ireland is enormous and as yet unmeasured. The Article 50 negotiations which are due to start in March 2017 and will last two years deal narrowly with political Brexits. All the other Brexits will take years to finalise.
Denis MacShane is the former minister for Europe and the author of 'Brexit: How Britain Left Europe', published by IB TaurisReuse content