Only weeks away from the confirmation of Josep Borrell as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Marta Kozielska and Benjamin Martill take stock of the challenges and trade-offs current world politics present him with.
European Values and the Extra-European World
Josep Borrell, the EU’s nominee for the position of High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and former Spanish foreign minister, arrives in post at a challenging time. International order is weaker than it was a decade ago, with those who designed it (the US, Britain) and those who wish to change it (China, Russia) testing its stability. The US’s commitment to Europe, upon which European integration itself was constructed, feels weaker than ever before under Donald Trump. NATO is in disarray. The regional security situation is poor, with a host of crises and intractable civil conflicts on the Union’s border.
Miguel I. Purroy argues that Brexit gives an opportunity for the EU to reform itself and adopt more flexible approaches for its integration process, to make it notably more democratic. The UK could be thus a member of a restructured EU accepting different levels of political and economic integration.
Continental Europe is showing an unfortunate inability to understand Brexit as a historic opportunity to rethink the European project and open ways for breaking the deadlock in which the European Union now finds itself. “Br-exit” could be transformed into “Br-entry”, a reincorporation into a concept of Europe that is acceptable to the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson is demanding that the Withdrawal Agreement is scrapped and renegotiated, and is insisting that he won’t meet EU leaders until they agree to this. The major source of contention is the backstop, which guarantees an open border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit, but ties the UK to the EU’s Customs Union. In a new Brexit Insights paper, Dr Nicholas Wright assesses the politics of the backstop and ‘no deal’, and what all this means for Northern Ireland.
During his leadership campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson engaged in an increasingly shrill rhetorical arms race with his rival, Jeremy Hunt, over who will be toughest with the EU in delivering Brexit. In particular, his ire was focused on the hated ‘Irish backstop’ which has come to symbolise all that Brexiters loathe about the Withdrawal Agreement. Indeed, Mr Johnson has promised to remove this element of the deal, declaring that if the EU will not renegotiate, then the UK will leave on 31 October, deal or no deal, suggesting that the costs of exiting in such circumstances will be ‘vanishingly inexpensive if you prepare’. Such claims fly in the face of reality and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it is here that the consequences of Brexit and the trade-offs implicit in its delivery are most starkly revealed.
Ronan McCrea argues that the crisis of trust between Ireland and the UK could peak under a Johnson premiership, as the backstop will be again the main negotiation point this autumn. Irish authorities would be torn between two damaging solutions (scrapping the backstop or no deal) and the room for compromise is getting extremely limited.
To Irish observers of the Brexit process, the Tory leadership contest may make it appear that we have been victims of a horrifying time loop.
Back in 2016, Theresa May set out an approach that was characterised by serious over-estimation of the UK’s negotiating power and by a wishful “have cake and eat it” approach.
Albert Weale argues that at a time of a climate crisis trumping frontiers, international governance is needed more than ever. Leaving the EU and its structures of cooperation could thus be counterproductive for the UK as the country sets new bold and needed environmental objectives.
Brexit is full of ironies. Consider Mrs May’s recent announcement that the UK government will commit itself to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The audacity of the policy is matched only by the urgency of its need. It is obviously intended to show global leadership as well as to leave a legacy of the Prime Minister’s term in office other than failed Brexit negotiations. And yet nothing could be more ironic than leaving the EU announcing as your signature policy a set of measures that by anyone’s reckoning require international cooperation.