The UK is planned to leave the EU (Brexit) after 2 years of negotiations. Where a 'soft Brexit' would mean the UK leaving the EU but staying part of the EU's single market (as this could be more favourable economically).

What is the EU's stance on letting the UK stay a part of the single market after they have left the EU?

Besides public statements, I'm also interested in statistics and research that would back up that stance.

Perhaps the EU would not allow this as a way of pressuring the UK into staying (as the decision to leave doesn't seem to be legally binding).

The top answer to this question:

Why is the EU wishing to punish the UK instead of listening their detractors and seeking dialogue? [closed]

has some quotes of EU politicians saying the deal with the UK would be a harsh one, punishing the UK. But I wonder if maybe, when it comes to the single market, it might be deemed more beneficial to let the UK stay than to punish them?

  • 1
    A question asking "how likely..." is difficult to answer objectively, since there are so many unknowns and unknowables involved. A question just asking the public stance of the UK and the EU negotiators is probably answerable though.
    – origimbo
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 21:03
  • @origimbo Thanks, that was the intent of the question, I changed it to that. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 21:06
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    I still don't understand why people put the blame on the EU ("punishment", "pressure"). Members of the European single market are either EU members or they pay for the privilege (with money as well as abiding by the rules). Great Britain opted out from the former and announced not to do the latter, so they cannot be part of the single market. That's neither punishment nor pressure, that's Brexit.
    – user10415
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 6:08
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    The principal problem with the UK staying in the single market is that the UK wants to control immigration. But the EU requires that the four freedoms (people, capital, services, goods) be accepted together by every member country. I haven't heard of the EU rejecting or endorsing this idea, but the UK seems itself to abandon it by taking this position.
    – SdaliM
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 17:36
  • 1
    @gnasher729, yeah, I already regret making that comment and will delete it shortly, not because I think it's wrong but because I do not think we will be able to add anything new to a discussion that has been going on for so long.
    – user10415
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


It is too early to say.

The EU has said since before the negotiations started that the terms of the "divorce" must be settled before arrangements regarding trade can be discussed.

Membership in the Single Market is usually tied to granting the "Four Freedoms" (including freedom of movement), which Great Britain voted not to do because (amongst other things) they value sovereignty over their borders higher than the advantages of being part of the European Union.

However after the terms of the separation have been discussed it most likely will have turned out that the "divorce bill" is substantially smaller than 100 billion or whatever strange number has been floated around. On the other hand unfortunate phrases like "having cake and eat it" will hopefully not be repeated and be forgotten by then, and if thus both parties have their small victories to show at home this might pave the way for a face-saving compromise like speeded up procedures for a free trade agreement or something like it.

But that last paragraph is just hope and speculation; if you want an official statement you will have to wait to the relevant stage of the negotiations to hear what offers and counter-offers are being made.


Single market access is available to members of the European Economic Area (EEA). However, membership requires acceptance of all the rules of the single market, including as Eike says the Four Freedoms which include freedom of movement.

The EU has indicated that it will not compromise its basic principals, so membership of the EEA will likely be on the standard terms offered to every other member.


The EU will likely let the UK access the single market in the same way Switzerland can - through bilateral treaties. Or, if the UK chooses to remain inside the European Economic Area, it will have access through there.

However, if the UK refuses to allow any one of the 'Four Freedoms' (free movement of people, in this case) to flow freely between it and the EU, then it will not be allowed access to the single market. This appears to be what the UK is gearing up to do at the moment.

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