A quick reminder by Professor Simon Usherwood on why Brexit isn't like buying a car in one very basic respect.

Brexit and the car analogy.

Let’s start with that car.

You begin by not having a car, so you go to someone who is selling one.

You discuss prices and then either agree (and you get the car), or don’t agree (and then you walk away, not worse off, but also with no car).

To put it differently, if your negotiations fail, the outcome is the same as the situation before you negotiated.

Brexit is NOT like this.

On 29 March 2017, the UK told the EU it was leaving. The rules say that on 29 March 2019 the UK will leave, unless there is a decision otherwise.

Because that decision was made back in 2017, if there is no agreement on the terms of leaving by 29 March this year, all of the UK’s relations with the EU will end and NOTHING will automatically replace them.

So, a ‘No-Deal’ outcome is NOT like the car thing, because it is NOT a ‘going back to how things were before’ situation, but a ‘living with the decision already made’ situation.

For the car, failure to agree a price, or even just failure to be bothered about closing the deal, carries NO COST to you, because you are just where you were before.

For Brexit, failure to agree a deal carries THE COST OF ALL of what you had before disappearing.

And to underline the point, all the evidence points to that ‘No-Deal’ situation pointing to substantial economic costs, quite apart from the damage to any future efforts to building a political relationship with the EU.

I would offer a better analogy for you, but there isn’t really one, since the way Brexit is structured doesn’t really occur in our day-to-day lives.

But let’s have a try with this...

Brexit and the job analogy.

Imagine you had a job that you decided to quit.

Imagine you have a work contract that says you have to give notice, during which you can negotiate a severance package. If you can’t negotiate one, then you leave with nothing at the end of your notice.

You have the right to stop your notice and stay in the job. And the company has been providing you with various benefits that you would find life harder without.

Once you have given notice, you have made a decision and started a clock, counting down to the day you go.

As you will see, you have now got a rather different set of incentives to that car-buying thing.

It is not a perfect analogy (which is why I hesitate to offer it), but it does point more to how you might think about Brexit and so many people in Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels are worrying about this going off the rails.

In short: cars are one thing, Brexit is very much another.🔷

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.)

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(Cover: Flickr/The Library of Virginia - Nash car dealership, by Adolph B. Rice Studio. | 20 Mar 1954. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)



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Professor at the University of Surrey. All aspects of Brexit and EU-UK relations, plus some learning and teaching.

Guildford, UK. Articles in PMP Magazine Website