Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Data transfers, Michel Barnier

Brexit No Deal still looks likely

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A week or so ago, I came across this tweet from Simon Fraser, whose Twitter profile says: “Managing Partner Flint Global. Vice Chair Chatham House. Was Perm Sec UK Foreign Office & Business Dept & Chief of Staff EU Trade Commissioner.” A person, therefore, of some considerable substance and experience.

A good moment, after downbeat official comment on the latest #Brexit talks, to remind ourselves just how extraordinary a failure of successive governments it will be if UK leaves EU after four and a half years of negotiation with no agreement on the future relationship.

Which prompts the question: was an agreement ever possible? Or was Brexit always framed in such a way that for Brexiteers “no deal” was always the only “true Brexit”?

But before seeking to answer this question, let’s look at where we are now, following another couple of weeks of inconclusive talks between the EU and the UK. To put it as its simplest, the July intensive rounds of talks, triggered by Boris Johnson’s demand to “put a tiger in the tank, turned out to be little more than dinner in Brussels one week, in London the next.

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Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating

A tale of two speeches by Gove and Frost

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The sting was in the tail. It was the last few paragraphs that really told the story. You couldn’t mistake what the story was. And it is still the story today. It is a never-ending story.

British Brexiteers will never rest content until the EU collapses. Which is why an agreement between the EU and the UK is close to impossible. How do you cut a deal with people who believe your very existence is illegitimate and would happily see you implode?

In 2016, some months before the Brexit referendum, Michael Gove then, as now, a UK cabinet minister made a speech  setting out the case for Brexit. The speech was called:  The facts of life say leave, but most people better remember it for one of its key lines “The day after we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.

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Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market

Fog in the English Channel. Continent Cut Off

 This analysis of recent developments was written and posted on Monday, May 18th, 2020

Belgium EU Britain Brexit
EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (Francois Lenoir, Pool Photo via AP)

Fog in the English Channel, Continent Cut Off” may or may not be an actual UK newspaper headline, but could easily sum up the remarks of the UK’s Brexit negotiator, David Frost, last Friday after another round of discussions between the EU and the UK.

“We made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us,” Frost said, adding it was “…hard to understand why the EU insists on an ideological approach which makes it more difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement”. Frost’s comments were repeated on a Sunday TV show by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove who said “…there’s a philosophical difference” in the UK-EU negotiations

In reply, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michael Barnier, commented:

“This makes me believe that there is still a real lack of understanding in the United Kingdom about the objective, and sometimes mechanical, consequences of the British choice to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

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Brexit, British Government, Brussels, Conservative Party, Negotiating

Can there be a deal with no transition extension?

It is perhaps appropriate that, in these far from normal times, that this BEERG Brexit Briefing is longer and more detailed than normal. The reason relates directly to the complexity of the question which I pose and then attempt to answer as comprehensively as possible: if there is no Brexit transition phase then can there be a deal? 

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Introduction:

There will be no request from the UK to extend transition beyond the end of 2020. Nor will a deal be in place by then on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. On December 31 next, the UK will leave the EU’s single market, customs union, and associated agreements and protocols. It will be a “third country” outside the EU’s legal order. The fallout will not be pleasant. The politics will be ugly.

This is where the logic of Brexit leads and “Hard Brexit” politicians are now dominant in the UK.

Brexiteers believe that the UK, no matter what the circumstances, will always be better off out of the EU than in. For them, quite simply, the EU has nothing to offer the UK. Only this disdain for all things European can explain the failure of the UK to join the EU program scheme to bulk-buy PPE earlier this year  . The “my dog ate the email” excuse (and others) proffered by ministers simply fails to stand up.

December 31 next cannot come quickly enough for Brexiteers, the economic disruption from Covid-19 notwithstanding. They want to be able to wake up on January 1, 2021 and say: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last”.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Single Market

UK’s Brexit mandate is based on 3 fictions

This blogpost was written on Saturday March 7th.

BoJo

The first week of negotiations on the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK after the end of 2020 transition year opened this week in Brussels. The previous week both sides published their negotiating mandates. The EU mandate can be found here. The UK´s here.

Leave to one side the technicalities of tariffs, quotas, rules of origin and so on, the small stuff of trade negotiations. “Zoom out” and see the big picture. And the big picture is this: the UK is leaving the EU. The UK decided to leave. It was its decision and its decision alone. It was not pushed out or asked to leave.

All the consequences of Brexit flow from the UK´s decision.

The UK is walking away from the deal it now has, as an EU member, of frictionless trade in goods, liberalised access for the services sector, and full integration into intra-EU data flows covering individuals, businesses, and justice and security matters. The UK government has now accepted that any future deal will be worse than this, will generate border delays and frictions, will curb services access and disrupt data flows.

Business will take a hit, in some cases a very big hit (see below). But, as is it right, the current UK government has privileged sovereignty and law-making autonomy over economic and commercial considerations.

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Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Brussels

#Brexit: Breaking Bad

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Brexit is breaking bad. There are no grounds for thinking that there will be any deal between the EU and the UK concluded before the end of this year. Businesses and individuals would be well advised to prepare for a situation where trade between the UK and the EU is conducted from January 2021 onwards on minimalist World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, with all that will mean for border delays, paperwork and new bureaucracies.

All those other areas of life that are dependent on EU/UK agreements, such as air and road transport, data transfers, business travel, tourism and countless others will be dealt with by stop-gap measures, if at all. Google has already decided to move all its UK users data to the US. The chances of the UK getting an “data adequacy” decision from the EU recedes by the day. Continue reading