In a report published last week, Oliver Patel assesses the EU’s institutional and strategic approach to the Brexit negotiations, and considers what the EU wants from the process. Here, he summarises the core points of the paper and outlines how the UK has been outflanked by the EU’s negotiating tactics thus far.
October’s European Council summit represented ‘more of the same’ for the Brexit process. Although EU leaders were more cordial than in Salzburg, their fundamental position hasn’t changed: there must be some form of backstop which ties Northern Ireland to the Customs Union and Internal Market for goods, and it can’t be time-limited. Without this, there will be no withdrawal agreement. The ball is now in the UK’s court, they say.
Michael Grubb discusses how to go beyond the recent obstacles in the negotiations and the negative rhetoric by focusing on key sectors where interests are aligned. In his view, energy, climate and transport are the logical sectors from which to start the writing of a new positive relationship.
So: at Salzburg the unstoppable force of Brexit finally met the immovable object of EU concerns about the integrity of its single market, and its insistence that the UK must be “either in or out”. Teresa May is emphatic: she has made a proposal; the EU must respond not with rejection but with suggestions.
As it considers options, the EU’s core dilemma is that what it may see as legitimate defence of the EU’s interests risks being perceived and spun in sections of the UK as an attempt to punish. And one great lesson of history speaks to the EU’s conundrum: punishing countries, however tempting, is a road to disaster. The 1919 Treaty of Paris that imposed devastating reparations payment on Germany after the First World War – which led to enduring European and international crises culminating in the Second World War – is the classic, if extreme, example. In an increasingly fragile world, the UK and the EU need each other.
With ‘exit day’ less than six months away, public debate about a second Brexit vote continues. In this new post on this topic, Jess Sargeant, Alan Renwick and Meg Russell outline the key decision points and processes by which MPs or the government might choose to trigger a second referendum.
In our previous blogpost we considered how long it would take to hold a second referendum on Brexit, concluding that an extension to Article 50 would almost certainly be required. The length of the necessary extension would depend on when the referendum was triggered. Calling a referendum requires a majority in parliament, and whether such a majority exists will depend on political and circumstantial factors. But by examining the process of Brexit we can identify a number of key junctures at which a decision to hold a referendum could be made.
Richard Bellamy discusses the circumstances that would allow for a second referendum to take place. Beyond the difficulties to overcome a potential “betrayal” effect, the design of this new vote would be highly controversial and it does not seem likely that Justine Greening’s system of first and second preferences would make it more legitimate in the eyes of the electorate and politicians.
Theresa May has announced there will be no second Brexit referendum under any circumstances, prompting the wits of social media to recall her similar assurances regarding a snap election and declare that naturally there will now be one. Trying to divine what the Prime Minister really believes or wants seems a thankless task. However, a reasonable hypothesis is that she considers such a declaration as necessary to stem accusations of betrayal by the hard Brexit wing of her party, especially given some soft Brexiters and even a few Remainers also believe the popular vote for Brexit has to be honoured, and to buttress her authority to negotiate an agreement with the EU on the basis of proposals likely to win Parliamentary support. If so, two questions arise: first, does the accusation of ‘betrayal’ in the event of a second referendum have any foundation at all and second, and probably more importantly, under what political circumstances might she (or any immediate successor) be pushed into granting a second referendum?
What, if anything, could still derail the Brexit process in the coming months? Kirsty Hughes thinks the biggest political crisis might be yet to come as the negotiations unfold. Particular stumbling blocks include Northern Ireland and the future customs arrangements.
With just six months to go to finalise the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the watchword most frequently heard around Whitehall and Westminster is ‘uncertainty’. The cabinet are at daggers drawn over the future customs relationship with the EU – a row that pays little attention to what the EU might agree to. And there is no visible progress on the backstop that would allow Northern Ireland to keep the border open whatever the future relationship. Continue reading