LONDON—In the Brexit lexicon, it is called “no deal.” Forget about negotiating a bilateral withdrawal treaty between the U.K. and the European Union. Just leave and start over.
With Prime Minister Theresa May’s premiership drawing to a close, the specter of a no-deal Brexit once again looms larger. Most lawmakers oppose it. Business executives are terrified of it. But the favorites among those jostling to replace Mrs. May as prime minister are talking up an abrupt exit after almost three years of inconclusive Brexit wrangling.
Britain doesn’t need an agreement to leave the EU; that will now happen on Oct. 31 unless the U.K. takes one of three steps to avoid it. It could agree to a deal, ask the other 27 EU governments for a further delay, or unilaterally decide not to go ahead with Brexit at all.
“No deal has always been the legal default,” said Maddy Thimont Jack, senior researcher at the Institute for Government, a nonpartisan London think tank focused on policy-making.
Ardent Brexit supporters see no deal as the ticket to a bright future free from the long arm of EU regulation. It would mean no finicky negotiations over the Irish border or handing over billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to settle past commitments to the EU budget.
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