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Brexit: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son - by Hugo Dixon

Pro-European Brits should put their heart into stopping Brexit rather than campaigning for a soft one. Mitigating the disaster of quitting the EU is a poor consolation prize.

Staying in the EU, on the other hand, is the real jackpot — and, since Theresa May’s disastrous general election, no longer a quixotic goal.

The soft Brexit brigade may gain comfort from the position papers the government will start publishing this week. These are expected to confirm that Mrs May is looking for a transitional deal to bridge the gap between quitting the EU and nailing down a new long-term relationship with our partners.

This shift is certainly welcome. But the government remains committed to leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, so its policy will still damage our economy.

Anyone who campaigns for soft Brexit will be doing the government’s dirty work for it. And, let us be clear, it is dirty work.

The cabinet’s disarray over what sort of Brexit they want is not just down to incompetence. They are trying to solve the impossible puzzle of getting a good Brexit. If the government wants to delay the pain, it will have to continue following the EU’s rules and paying into its budget for that transitional period.

Rather than giving Mrs May a helping hand, pro-Europeans should exploit her problems in order to drive further changes in public opinion. People have lost confidence in the prime minister’s ability to negotiate a good Brexit. Before the June general election, she seemed to walk on water; now she is drowning.

We will also find ourselves marginalised on the world stage and so less able to influence things that really matter to our citizens such as fighting terrorism, combating climate change and preventing the worst side-effects of globalisation.

Read more: EU should welcome the UK back from Brexit like the prodigal son

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