As March 29 approaches, what are the Brexit options for the UK and the chances for each one?

The Chequers Plan

The official Government plan at this point is the July proposal agreed by the Cabinet. This maintains a “common rulebook” for trade with the EU, through “harmonisation” and a “joint institutional framework” — although there is some flexibility for “different arrangements”.

UK services — which make up 80% of the economy — will be outside the rulebook, giving Britain full leeway to negotiate agreements with other countries.

Free movement of people ends, with a “mobility framework” to be pursued for UK and EU citizens to travel to each other’s territories, and for applications for study and work.


*Prevents a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
*Buffers against a shock of supplies, for example, food and medicines


*Uncertainty over short-term status of services
*(For Brexit-ers) Acceptance of some European jurisdiction regarding goods


3/10 — The EU is not happy with some provisions of the plan, seeing it as “cherry-picking”, but it is willing to negotiate because of its concerns over No Deal and who might succeed Theresa May as Prime Ministers.

But hard Brexit-ers, including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, are dedicated to burying the plan — it doesn’t fit their message or their political ambitions.


Both UK goods and services would be separated from the EU, leaving Britain to negotiate arrangements with other countries and to set its immigration restrictions as it seeks a new relationship with Europe.

The option is named after the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, approved in 2017.


*Meets hard Brexit-ers requirement of no EU jurisdiction in any UK economic matters


*Establishes a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
*Takes a long time to establish — CETA took 8 1/2 years between start of negotiations and approval
*Makes no provision for economic arrangements before an agreement is reached


2/10 — If the UK had embarked on this option in 2016 after the Brexit vote, it might have this as a viable option in final stages of talks with EU. But with no planning established, this is at most an aspiration for a not-so-near future.

Likely to be invoked by Johnson and the hard Brexit-ers to cover a “No Deal” (see below), but as political device rather than reality


Keeps the UK in the EU single market for goods and services and in the customs union. Takes the UK out of some EU arrangements, such as the Common Fisheries and Common Agricultural Programs, and ends the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Favored by the House of Lords but rejected so far by the Government as incompatible with the 2016 referendum.


*Least disruptive of the options, and thus least damaging to UK economy
*Resolves Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border issue


*(For Brexit-ers) Acceptance of EU laws and regulations over UK-EU matters
*Reduces UK influence over EU policy and rules
*(For Brexit-ers) Free movement of people to be retained


1/10 — Seen by economists and many business interests as best option, but even May — let alone hard Brexit-ers — is unwilling to go this route.

Best seen as a “recovery position” after a No Deal and its consequences — if the EU is willing to countenance it.


No agreement on any matter with EU: goods, services, immigration, security issues, research and academic cooperation, and much more.

Some Brexit-ers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are likely to favor this outcome, even if Johnson is talking vaguely about a “Canada Plus Plus” plan. Others such as David Davis and Michael Gove are not going this far.


*(For some Brexit-ers) No ties to EU
*Possibility of trade deals with countries such as US
*(For Brexit-ers) No limits on immigration restrictions


*Likely economic damage, with almost all economists — including Treasury and Bank of England — projecting 5% to 7% relative loss of GDP
*Hard border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
*Disruption to supplies and to staffing of crucial services, including National Health Service
*Uncertainty over arrangements in transport and other public sectors
*No foreseeable alternative trade arrangements, including with US, for years


6/10 — By far the riskiest option for the economy, the Irish border, and UK security and international position. But it appeals emotively to many Conservatives, the opposition Labour Party is still uncertain over its stance, and Johnson and Rees-Mogg (with supporters in UK media) have the momentum.