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Brexit lexicon: 10 phrases you should know

As EU and British negotiators spar publicly on meanings and fine print, new terms and phrases have emerged, as the formal exit date of March 29, 2019 draws near.

world Updated: Feb 25, 2018 20:52 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
A carnival float, depicting Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May giving birth to the Brexit,  being prepared in Duesseldorf, southern Germany.
A carnival float, depicting Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May giving birth to the Brexit, being prepared in Duesseldorf, southern Germany.(AFP File)

Many remain perplexed at the knotted layers that need to be unravelled as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, but the discourse has spawned a new lexicon that may confound the unfamiliar even if by now ‘Brexit’ is a familiar word.

Britain joined the EU in 1973 and has since been a key funder and influencer in all its decisions, incorporating EU-wide rules and regulations as well as benefiting from being part of the European Single Market. But the 2016 vote to leave the grouping has challenged many wordsmiths.

How to describe the complex ongoing talks and the shape of London’s future relationship with Brussels? As EU and British negotiators spar publicly on meanings and fine print, new terms and phrases have emerged, as the formal exit date of March 29, 2019 draws near.

Here are 10 that would have intrigued even Sir Humphrey Appleby of ‘Yes Prime Minister’ fame:

Soft and hard Brexit
Refers to the two options of whether the UK retains close links with the EU after Brexit (the soft option) or makes a clean break (the hard option); the first is preferred by those who voted to remain in the EU (including a majority of the MPs), while the second is the objective of fervent Brexiteers (including many ruling Conservative MPs).

Hard border
The only EU country with which the UK shares a border is Ireland, but in practice there are no border posts and the movement of people and goods is seamless. Due to the close historical, economic and people-to-people ties between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the desire is not to have border posts (the hard border) between the two after Brexit. This is on top of the agenda of contentious talks in Brussels.

Ambitious managed divergence
This refers to the ‘ambition’ of the Theresa May government to ‘diverge’ from the EU after Brexit but retain (’manage’) those links that it believes will be beneficial to the UK, such as those relating to trade and economy (43% of the UK’s trade is with the European Union).

Regulatory alignment
This refers to the UK meeting obligations of the EU, even after Brexit. The phrase, first used in EU documents, is opposed by pro-Brexit ministers and MPs. It means continued membership of the European Single Market and the Customs Union, which comes with certain obligations.

Cake philosophy
Part of talk in Brussels to ridicule London’s ambiguous position, which is seen as wanting to ‘cherry-pick’ parts of the EU that it believes will benefit the UK after brexit is complete. EU leaders insist that an a-la-carte- approach is not offer when the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

Three baskets theory
This is another version of the cake philosophy. It refers to three scenarios: one where standards stay fully aligned with the EU, another where London has the option to diverge in future, and a third where it makes a clean break from the EU.

Divorce bill
The payment in billions of pounds that the UK needs to make as part of the final withdrawal settlement of its ongoing contribution as a member of the EU. The figure is estimated to be between 35 and 39 billion pounds. Some leading lights believe the UK should not pay anything to the EU.

Cliff edge
The day when the UK’s exit from the EU takes effect and is faced with a scenario in which EU laws and regulations no longer apply. This is of most concern to British businesses who trade across the UK and face the prospect of losing easy, tariff-free access to the European Single Market.

Remoaners
This refers to those voted to remain in the EU, deeply regret the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, and believe that Brexit can be reversed either though another referendum or another mid-term election.

Transition
Subject of intense negotiations in Brussels, this refers to a period of transition after the March 29, 2019 deadline, when the UK is expected to continue to follow EU rules until it has transposed them into British law and put in place systems to function outside the EU. The transition period is currently said to last two years, but still to be confirmed.