The EU wants to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit – here’s how it could achieve that

Tusk and Juncker: nearly there. Image: Oliver Hoslet / EPA

Nieves Perez-Solorzano, University of Bristol

Before the Brexit negotiations had officially started, back in June 2017, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told journalists what he needed on the other side of the table:

A head of the British delegation that is stable, accountable and that has a mandate.

Less than a year before Brexit day, scheduled for March 29, 2019, Barnier may feel he is still waiting for those conditions to be met, especially as the EU now finds itself with a new head of the British delegation, Dominic Raab. Raab’s negotiating position for the next round of talks, starting on July 16, results from Theresa May’s attempt to hold her cabinet and the Conservative Party together at a meeting at Chequers. In doing so, the prime minister provoked yet another domestic Brexit crisis with a spate of resignations, including those of the Brexit secretary, David Davis – who Raab has replaced – and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.

In the face of such uncertainty, the reaction of the 27 remaining EU member states (EU27) to the UK’s new vision for a future UK-EU relationship has been cautious but unenthusiastic. European leaders from Barnier to German chancellor Angela Merkel, and from Irish premier Leo Varadkar to Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor whose country holds the EU Council presidency, have spoken with one voice. They have all welcomed the British government’s attempt to define a negotiating position on the framework for the future UK-EU relationship, but have asked for further detail.


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As one EU diplomat recently put it: “We will try to receive it as well as possible but from what we understand it is still a carve-out of the single market.” The diplomat added that May’s proposed single market for goods is, “A lot of fudge with a cherry on top.”

The final stretch

European leaders are also concerned that time is running out for a deal to be finalised – even as Barnier indicated: “After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80% of the negotiations.” This may be read as a reminder to the UK government not to divert too much from what has been achieved at the negotiating table so far – and an expectation of more clarity, soon.

Some have seen a recent tweet from Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, in the wake of the UK cabinet resignations, as an opportunity to reverse Brexit altogether.

The EU’s reaction to the detail of the British position will be shaped by the challenge of having to negotiate with an increasingly unstable British government while trying to avoid a “no deal” scenario. Even though European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has confirmed that the EU has started preparations for this eventuality, the EU is committed to an orderly British withdrawal that avoids uncertainty and protects citizens and businesses.

On a frenetic day at Westminster, May found time to meet Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, at Downing Street. Rick Findler/EPA

And while the EU27 will not do this at any price, it’s in this commitment to a final Withdrawal Agreement that the member states may find the political will to work constructively with the UK’s current vision for a future relationship even if there are fears that May’s government could fall at any point.

Extend the Article 50 deadline

So how might the EU do this? First, it can agree to extend the Brexit negotiation process. This might not have been a preferred outcome at the start of the negotiations, but if extending the negotiation period ensures that there is an agreed solution that avoids a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and thus UK agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU27 are perfectly justified in drawing on this flexibility tool. The terms of Article 50, which govern the procedural requirements for a member state to be able to exercise its right to leave the EU, allow for the deadline to be extended beyond the initial two years.


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The UK and all EU member states must agree to the extension. Given its internal crisis, the UK government might welcome a softening of the ticking Brexit clock pressure. Even though Brexit day is enshrined in the EU Withdrawal Act, ministers can change it if necessary. May confirmed that this would only happen in “exceptional circumstances” and “for the shortest possible time”.

For their part, the EU27 need to unanimously agree to the extension. The experience of other highly politicised negotiations such as the accession of new countries, has shown that the member states are able to leave aside their egoistic national preferences to pursue the collective EU interest – namely avoiding a disorderly Brexit.

Softening red lines

Second, the EU may decide to soften some of its red lines for the purpose of finalising a Withdrawal Agreement. Barnier hinted at this in a speech on July 6, stating “I am ready to adapt our offer should the UK red lines change”, but making it clear that the integrity of the single market had to be protected.

If the forthcoming white paper can offer sufficient detail and some realistic substance for the EU negotiating team to work with, and if the UK and EU can find sufficient common ground on such detail, this might afford some leeway to get the negotiations over the hurdle of completing a Withdrawal Agreement. As Franklin Dehousse, a former judge at the EU General Court has put it:

There are no serious legal reasons to exclude a Brexit deal with single market on goods and partial free movement of people (but with the proper institutional guarantees). Obstacles are political, and if people want to create them, they should justify them as such.

The Brexit challenge is no longer an existential threat to the EU but rather to the Conservative government. However, the future of the EU depends on the success of the Brexit process and this requires a degree of ingenuity and political will that allows it to consider Brexit scenarios that protect the integrity of the bloc and its member states, without marginalising the UK.

Nieves Perez-Solorzano, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, University of Bristol

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

It’s in the EU’s interest to press ahead with Brexit negotiations

The extraordinary outcome of the UK general election and the uncertain domestic political climate has led to calls by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon for a “short pause” in the Brexit process. Despite this, Brexit negotiations are now scheduled to begin on June 19.

Nieves Perez-Solorzano Borragan, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, University of Bristol

There are no advantages for the EU in delaying or pausing Brexit negotiations. It is ready and waiting to negotiate an orderly British withdrawal

Limiting the uncertainty caused by Brexit has been at the core of the EU’s narrative since the Brexit referendum. Delaying the negotiation process only prolongs uncertainty about the direction of Brexit. Meanwhile, the EU is eager to address other challenges such as the refugee crisis or an increasingly unpredictable international environment. A pause would also increase legal uncertainty: there is no agreement on whether it is legally possible to stop the Article 50 process, so the Court of Justice of the EU might have to intervene.

The UK Negotiating Position

The UK’s negotiating position outlined before the election appears under pressure as the prime minister, Theresa May, no longer has a parliamentary majority to sustain it. And as the negotiations start, the Government has not been forthcoming in making public its Brexit priorities after the general election, so the assumption is that they have not changed. Continue reading

#BristolBrexit: a city responds to Brexit

Stokes Croft, Bristol. Jim Killock/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

Dr Jon Fox, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Jon Fox is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies and the Assistant Director of the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol.  His research focusses on racism in relation to East European nationals living and working in the UK. He tweets @jonefox23.

Uncertainty is plaguing the transition to a post-Brexit Britain. Cities can, and must, address it head on in ways that work best for them.

The plot thickens. When Theresa May called a snap general election for 8 June she introduced the latest twist in the sordid Brexit tale that has been unravelling over the past year. The emerging plotline is peopled by a colourful cast of heroes and villains (though who fills which role is a matter of personal taste), teeming with intrigue and innuendo, and vacillating daily (or hourly) between tragedy and comedy.

We can ask how we got here, or prophesise about what the future holds, or pound the streets with our campaign of choice. We can also wring our hands, pray to our gods, and retreat into a life of Brexit-free asceticism. Or we can do something about the uncertainty that Brexit has produced. All these plot twists, the relentless manoeuvrings, and the onslaught of contradicting predictions have produced for many a paralysing uncertainty. Post-Brexit Britain has become a world of ‘what ifs’, and until documents are signed in Brussels it will remain as such. It’s not Brexit we need to deal with, it’s the uncertainty Brexit has created. Continue reading

Miller: Why the Government should argue that Article 50 is reversible

Dr Phil Syrpis, Reader in Law, University of Bristol

Professor Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law, University of Bristol

Last week’s judgement in the High Court is a ringing endorsement of the sovereignty of Parliament. It asserts that ‘Parliament can, by enactment of primary legislation, change the law of the land in any way it chooses’ (at [20]).

It explains why the ‘subordination of the Crown (i.e. executive government) to law is the foundation of the rule of law in the United Kingdom’ (at [26]), including references to the bedrock of the UK’s Constitution, the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights, and constitutional jurist AV Dicey’s An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution.

The Crown has broad powers on the international plane, for example to make and unmake treaties, but as a matter of English law, these powers reach their limits where domestic law rights are affected. EU law, by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972 (described again as a constitutional statute), does indeed have direct effect in domestic law. As a result of the fact that the decision to withdraw from the European Union would have a direct bearing on various

The Royal Courts of Justice in London, home of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Credit- Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr

The Royal Courts of Justice in London, home of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Credit- Anthony M. from Rome, Italy – Flickr

categories of rights outlined in the judgement (at [57]-[61]), the Crown cannot, without the approval of Parliament, give notice under Article 50.  Continue reading

Putting Britain First: The Sino-UK ‘Golden Era’ with Theresa May Characteristics

Dr Winnie King, Teaching Fellow, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Dr Winnie King, Teaching Fellow, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol

“The golden era of British-Chinese relations will continue,” Prime Minister Theresa May stated September 2nd on her way to the G20 in Hangzhou, China. Will it however, be the 24 carat of the days of Cameron and Osborne? Or have delays linked to Hinkley Point irrevocably tarnished the gleam of relations?

If President Xi Jinping’s statement during the G20 Summit is any indication, he is willing to ‘show patience,’ giving Mrs. May time to frame and launch her vision of British foreign policy and economic relations.

As one who seems to keeps her cards close to her chest, the question is what shape will this come in?

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An Orwellian violation of privacy is still not the answer to safeguarding the country in the face of extremism

oliver-daniel

Oliver Daniel is a second year Geography undergraduate, current intern at PolicyBristol, and cyber-security intern in Summer 2016.

The tragic news from Paris shook the world, and has led to an urgent reconsideration of how we can safeguard our citizens’ security. Less than two weeks after the announcement of Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Bill, the horrific events of Paris still cannot be used as a means to justify it.

“Computers are central to our everyday lives. Big data is reshaping the way we live and work. The internet has brought us tremendous opportunities to prosper and interact with others. But a digital society also presents us with challenges. The same benefits enjoyed by us all are being exploited by serious and organised criminals, online fraudsters, and terrorists. The threat is clear. In the past 12 months alone, six significant terrorist plots have been disrupted here in the UK, as well as a number of further plots overseas. The frequency and cost of cyber-attacks is increasing, with 90% of large organisations suffering an information security breach last year.” Theresa May

The Bill was justified by the Rt Hon Theresa May MP as necessary to ensure that “law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe”. But does this Bill really succeed in keeping us safe, and if so, at what cost?

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