Albert Weale applies elementary principle of bargaining theory to demonstrate that the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration currently on the table are the best deal possible for the UK government given its own red lines and its starting-point.
The withdrawal agreement and declaration on a future relationship are regarded by both sides of the Brexit debate as a bad deal for the UK. For Brexiteers, it leaves the country as a rule-taking ‘vassal state’ on single market rules, requires payments into the EU budget during the transition period, and has no freedom to implement free trade agreements with other countries until the end of the back-stop. For Remainers it will lead to the UK being worse off than it would be in the EU or in a Norway type arrangement, quite apart from any damage to the UK’s reputation. The temptation is to put this down to Mrs May’s poor negotiating skills. However, given her initial red lines, the outcome is quite positive. The UK is outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ, it has its own immigration policy and has continued customs arrangements, the last of which is far from being an EU plot to keep the UK as a vassal state, but is instead a concession to UK cherry-picking.
Still, it is not good to be a rule-taker, whilst paying into the budget, and with so little protection for UK services. More importantly, it leaves the UK weak in negotiating the terms of the future arrangements given the vetoes that EU might exercise by way of leverage. So, how did a UK government get to this position? Some elementary principles of bargaining theory provide an answer.
As agreement is reached with the EU, Theresa May’s Brexit deal will come before parliament. In this contribution, Benjamin Martill, Dahrendorf Forum Post-Doctoral Fellow at LSE, breaks down the parliamentary arithmetic and assesses her options.
My Kingdom for a Deal
Theresa May has, at long last, reached agreement with the EU on the terms of Britain’s impending withdrawal from the Union on 29 March 2019. The deal is politically controversial and seems to have pleased no one, especially the hardline Brexiters. This is because it could see the UK remain within a single customs territory with the EU, precluding the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland would also remain in key elements of the single market for goods, for the same reason. This ‘backstop’ has proven to be the most contentious element of the Withdrawal Agreement, dragging out negotiations which were almost 80 percent complete at the beginning of 2018.
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.
In this post, Eleni Frantziou tell us about the danger of making an exception with the removal of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Withdrawal Act, while the rest of the European “acquis” is translated into British law. Besides the legal implications, this questions what the British society see as “fundamental” and what should be excluded from the day-to-day agenda of Westminster. Brexit could be the opportunity for the UK to draft its own set of rights, but this outright rejection threatens an important democratic safeguard.
With the Withdrawal Act having finally entered the lawbooks back in June, the focus of the Brexit conversation has, naturally, shifted towards other matters (including issues of perhaps greater urgency, such as the grounding of planes, the availability of medication, and general contingency planning in case of a no-deal Brexit). Rallying to the problems of legislation which was already vastly criticised academically and in the House of Lords before its adoption may now be seen as a lost cause. Nevertheless, at the risk of staying within the ivory tower, in this post, I will try to formulate a critique of one of the Withdrawal Act’s most significant problems: the removal of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
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.