With Brexit, one of the very few things that everyone can agree on is that it will have a huge impact on the citizens of the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Putting aside any effect it may have on the very future of the EU, there are more immediate concerns across the continent. From Polish nationals wondering whether they can stay in Britain, to French export companies which depend on the UK market, the effects of Brexit will be felt far and wide.
As the formal negotiations get underway there is a huge amount of uncertainty. Brexit could take many forms. It could be a so-called “hard Brexit”, where the UK gives up full access to the single market, has full control over its borders, and makes its own trade deals and laws.
Or it could be “soft Brexit” which leaves the UK's relationship with the EU much closer to the existing arrangements but without Britain being a full member state.
British Prime Minister Theresa May seems to want a Brexit that is harder than softer, but what do Europeans think?
According to analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the 27 countries that make up the EU without the UK fall into three groups when it comes to their attitude towards Britain’s exit: “hardcore”, “hard” and “soft”.
At the top of the list – those who think that the EU should drive a really hard bargain – is France with 32.5 points out of a possible 40. There are six other “hardcore” countries, all of whom register scores of 30 or more: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania and Slovakia.
While Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia only joined the EU relatively recently, Austria, Belgium, France and Germany are all either original or early members of the EU, which could help explain their strength of feeling.
Southern and central Europe are slightly more forgiving, with Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, along with Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary scoring between 25 and 30.
The softest of all were Nordic and Baltic countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, along with Ireland and Poland, who all scored below 25.
The Brexit bill, cherry picking, trade and defence
The analysis focused on four key areas:
1. Whether Britain should pay a low "Brexit bill" to cover its existing obligations when it leaves
2. Whether the UK should be able to “cherry pick” which freedoms it wants (out of movement of goods, services, workers and capital)
3. Whether it could maintain trade ties and low tariff barriers
4. Whether it could sustain defence ties.
Most EU members thought that Britain ought to pay the full bill for its exit, which could be anywhere between €40 billion and €60 billion.
Leaving Britain to pick and choose which of the four EU freedoms it keeps, and which it doesn’t, is also a no-no for the majority of countries.
However, when it comes to trade ties, those countries that benefit from exporting to the UK unsurprisingly take a softer stance. For instance, Ireland and Poland are most in favour of keeping trade and tariffs with Britain – a country which is their second-largest export market. Sweden and Denmark also share Britain’s liberal position on trade and EU regulation.
The Baltic States and Poland are the keenest to maintain defence ties with Britain.
Ask a UK citizen what they think and, not surprisingly, you’re likely to receive different answers. A poll conducted last year found that over half (56%) of Britons think the UK should receive favourable exit terms, more than twice as many as in Germany, Belgium and France.
The study – which polled voters in six current European Union member states including Britain, France and Germany – also confirms that few outside of the UK would support a free trade deal that doesn’t preserve freedom of movement.
Who needs who?
Another poll showed that, while the UK thinks the EU needs it more than the other way round, the Germans and French don’t agree.
Over one-third (37%) of Germans think that the UK needs the EU more. A quarter of French, Danish, Finnish and Swedish people say the same. Only Norway comes close to the UK’s position, with just under a third (29%) saying that the EU needs the UK more.
A sad goodbye?
What about the emotional impact of Brexit – who is sad about it?
Of the European countries polled, France was the least upset about the departure of the UK, with only one in four expressing sadness. A third of Germans felt the same way.
Almost half of Swedes, along with almost half of Brits, said they were upset by Brexit.
As the "divorce" negotiations begin between the UK and EU, there is a least some progress being made towards addressing all the uncertainty.
But the talks will be difficult and complex, and clarity on what Brexit will look like could still be several years away.