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Brexit Fever is Breaking

A no-deal disaster is still theoretically possible when the next Brexit deadline arrives on April 12. But a much longer extension is almost certain, now that the principle of a potentially endless negotiation has prevailed.

LONDON – By removing the hard deadline for completing negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the EU has avoided the disaster of a 2008-style sudden stop in business with its second-largest trading partner. This decision dramatically improves the economic and political outlook for the UK and all of Europe.

For Britain, the prospects are suddenly much clearer and better than at any time since June 2016. While the likelihood that Prime Minister Theresa May will soon be ousted could create the impression of a constitutional crisis, the reality is that political conditions are sure to stabilize once the period for renegotiating the UK-EU relationship is extended again from the new, very soft, April 12 deadline until the end of the year or beyond. How this extension comes about – whether because of a new prime minister or a general election or a second referendum or a vote in Parliament to erase all of May’s “red lines” which prevented her negotiating a Norwegian-style associate membership of the EU – is impossible to predict. It is also not very important.

All that really matters is that eliminating the hard deadline for Brexit removes the threat of a “no deal” rupture with Europe. And once the promise of unfettered national sovereignty combined with integration in the global economy is revealed as a delusion, the most likely scenario will become an endless sequence of “temporary” transition arrangements. The EU’s arrangements with Norway and Switzerland, originally designed to last just one or two years when the EU single market was created in the early 1990s, are now approaching their fourth decade.