Farewell to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights? The Withdrawal Act and the Danger of Losing ‘Fundamentals’

human rights blog.jpgIn 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.

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Understanding the EU’s negotiating position on trade in the Brexit negotiations

trade containersLuis González García considers the specificity of the EU trade policy to explain the perceived rigidity of the EU negotiators on Brexit. The EU applies two approaches to its trade policy through either integration (strong regulatory alignment and strong market access) or liberalisation (looser arrangements): this explains why an ad hoc model which offers full market access but does not ensure a level playing field cannot be accepted by the European Union. 

Does the EU want to “punish” the UK?

Shortly after the EU summit in Salzburg the Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, said that negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU were at an “impasse”. [1]  Days later, the UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, characterised the EU’s negotiating stance uncompromising, suggested that the Union wanted to “punish” the UK for leaving the EU, and appeared to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.[2]

This “impasse” in the Brexit negotiations is hardly surprising from a trade negotiation perspective. In any negotiation, the ability to see the situation as the other side sees it is key. Negotiating trade is hard and time-consuming. Where trade is concerned, even a small mistake in diagnosing a negotiating situation is likely to prolong talks and complicate mutually acceptable solutions. To talk of the EU’s desire to punish the UK therefore not only misidentifies the cause of the impasse; it also makes the negotiations themselves more challenging.

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Forget punishment: the Brexit deal needs to carve out sectors of exceptional common interest


mike-wilson-39902-unsplash.jpgMichael 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.

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Although fraught with obstacles, a Brexit Deal is still on the cards


Last week’s rejection of May’s Chequers plan was widely viewed as rendering ‘no deal’ more likely, but that’s not necessarily the case, argues Oliver Patel, Research Associate at the UCL European Institute.


Theresa May’s Chequers plan was emphatically rejected by the EU last week. This was predictable, given that it violates the EU’s principal red line: preserving the integrity of the single market. May’s response was resolute, claiming that the UK would not change its approach and that it was down to the EU to break the impasse.

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Puffer Fish and Bargaining Chips: Why hard bargaining harms British interests

When it comes to Brexit, there’s no doubt that UK negotiators have adopted a hard bargaining strategy. Benjamin Martill asks whether this is the best strategy for advancing British interests. This blog is based on the Dahrendorf Forum Working Paper, ‘Cultures of Negotiation: Explaining Britain’s Hard Bargaining in the Brexit Negotiations’.

The New Politics of Bargaining

All eyes in British politics are on the negotiations between the UK and the EU over the terms of the forthcoming British withdrawal from the Union, or Brexit. Surprisingly, questions of bargaining strategy – once the preserve of diplomats and niche academic journals – have become some of the most defining issues in contemporary British politics.

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