Brexit negotiations and the future of EU-UK relations. Where are we heading?

Read few comments.


Questions:

1. How satisfied (or unsatisfied?) the EU could be if we look at the current outcome of Brexit negotiations, any breach of the EU red lines?

2. I know it will depend on the final Brexit deal and its implementation but in general what do you expect from the future of the EU-UK relations?

Answers:

Christian SchweigerVisiting Professor Comparative European Governance Systems, Technische Universität Chemnitz

1. I think overall the EU can be pretty satisfied that it remained steadfast and united against repeated British demands to offer them a special deal on Single Market access without CJEU jurisdiction and accepting the freedom of movement. If the deal is implemented the UK will get the opportunity to enter into a minimal costums arrangement and would even have to accept some of the EU rules on competition and employment standards. The only concession is that Northern Ireland would stay inside the costums union even if the negotiations for such a deal with the UK fails but this is a minimal concession the EU-27 can live it. As we are witnessing now, it is considered much more problematic in the UK, particularly by the SNP who would like a similar arrangement for Scotland.

2.  I am not very optimistic about future EU27-UK  relations. May is very unlikely to get the deal through parliament as it faces substantial opposition not just from within her own Tory ranks but also from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the  Northern Irish MPs. It is hence likely that she will step down after  the deal is rejected and one of the fundamentalist Conservative  eurosceptics (either Boris Johnson, or more likely Jacob Rees-Mogg)  will replace her as PM. The result will be attempts to renegotiate again which the EU is  likely to refuse. This could mean that the UK drops out of the EU without a proper deal. The Tory eurosceptics will however try to blame the EU for this by pushing the argument that “the EU is blaming us for Brexit”. This is not difficult to do in the UK context, as most of the tabloid media would take a similar line and a substantial section of the public in England already adopts this view. I hence fear that UK-EU relations will remain very strained for some  time to come, particularly if the current deal is not implemented.

Isabel Camisão, Assistant Professor, University of Coimbra

1. I believe that after a tough process of negotiations (one that in the beginning appeared that would be utterly competitive – I’ll give you this only in the exact extent that you give me that) the outcome for the EU is essentially positive. The EU has managed to secure an agreement mostly on its own terms, including safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the extremely sensitive question of preventing a hard Irish border. The problem was overcome by the possibility of establishing a customs union between the EU and the UK, but, as several analysts have pointed out, it is a very “limited” customs union that leaves unregulated (and therefore without agreement) several issues that ultimately would have an impact on the functioning of an eventual customs union. Also, it is far from guaranteed that it would come into force.

That being said, Brexit (if it becomes a reality) is in essence a negative outcome (a lose-lose result) for the two parts involved. It is true that the UK was for the most part a very reluctant EU member state at least as regards furthering the integration process. But if the essence of the European project is to unite Europe, to bring and maintain peace between the European countries, the withdrawal of one member state is a serious lost for the whole project. It should be a serious warning for the other 27 that some thought should be putted into the deeper causes that explain the referendum’s result.

2. It’s difficult to answer, because as for now we only have the withdrawal agreement (a kind of “divorce agreement”) and even this is in danger of being rejected by the British parliament. In what concerns the rules for the future EU-UK relation almost everything needs to be negotiated (the present agreement only includes some insights on this and for instance the annex Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland explicitly says that “…the Withdrawal Agreement …does not aim at establishing a permanent future relationship between the Union and the United Kingdom”).

If the Brexit goes ahead, from 29 March 2019 on the UK becomes a third country. The Withdrawal Agreement does foresee a transition period ending in 31 December 2020 which in theory means that the negotiations for the afterward should be concluded by then. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how this could be possible. If one takes for example the existent frameworks for “special” relations with other third countries or even the partnerships agreements for trade we would see that the rules regulating those relations have taken many years to be agreed on, so I’m not sure how such an intricated cluster of agreements on so many policy areas would be closed in such a short period of time. It’s important to emphasise that the number of issues that need to be renegotiated are by no means limited to the economic dimension. Consider for example internal/external security issues. The European Union collects information and manages several networks and databases that are crucial for police and judicial cooperation (conducted by agencies such as Europol and Eurojust). By leaving the EU the UK, at least at the end of the transition period, will cease to have access to those networks, information systems and databases established on the basis of Union law. So, every single access has to be negotiated.  That’s not to say that it is impossible to have a future EU-UK partnership in some relevant matters. That’s only to say that negotiations will take time and the resulting agreements most likely would be far less interesting (for both parts) than the 45 years relation that Brexit will end.

Jost-Henrik Morgenstern-PomorskiLecturer, European Studies, Department of Politics, Maastricht University

1. The general assessment for the EU I think would be positive. There have been claims that the UK got too much by way of maintaining trade links, but doing less on EU citizens’ freedom of movement etc. But the EU’s overarching interest is to maintain a somewhat orderly exit, which this agreement would allow despite its shortcomings. The bigger problem is rather whether even with having shown flexibility as to how to allow the UK to pretend it has taken back control this agreement will be sufficient to be actually agreed and stay in place.
The UK has had a ‘have your cake and eat it’ attitude to Brexit pretty much since the leave campaign has started, so any deal must fundamentally disappoint some people, especially those who don’t fully appreciate the difference between free trade and the single market. It appears the agreement has the potential to survive in the end, even if it would need more than one attempt to pass. But whether it stands will also depend again on British domestic politics more than anything the EU can do.

2. Future EU-UK relations are hard to predict at this stage, simply because the withdrawal and how it is done (orderly, not orderly) will have a big impact on willingness to engage in cooperation afterwards. I think already now the UK is not seen as a reliable negotiating partner in the way it had been before. Similarly, UK domestic stability will also be impacted by how withdrawal is done and cannot merely be assumed to be a continuation of the status quo.
The UK will probably attempt to move to more bilateral attempts at dealing with the EU just like other outside powers and that approach will have limitations because of the nature of EU policy in economic fields, maybe more successful in security and defense. It is unlikely that the future relationship will rely solely on one agreement, as the debate sometimes appears to suggest, but rather will continuously have to be negotiated with layers of agreements to come over the coming decade. In many ways, despite the agreement, the Brexit process will only just begin with the withdrawal and declaration on the future relationship. Just like the negotiations at the moment, this will be increasingly business as usual for the EU side with less political attention paid to it domestically and on policy and relatively higher domestic political salience in the UK.

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