Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Trade Deals

Sometimes, you just can’t compromise

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The hilarious haggling scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

One of the most overused and lazy words in the Brexit debate is the word “compromise”.

In how many articles on Brexit will you find some working of the phrase: everyone knows both sides will need to compromise? Why does the EU need to compromise? To get an agreement, will be the answer. But it wasn’t the EU that decided to end the relationship. The UK was the one that walked. And yet the EU is expected to bend its rules, to “compromise” to facilitate the UK?

It is not going to happen.

Picture this. Someone breaks into your house, intent on helping themselves to your goods and valuables. You confront them. Should you “compromise” with them? “Meet them in the middle”? “OK, you can take these two paintings and this watch. Maybe that laptop. That work for you?” I somehow don’t think so. Your sole intent would be to see them out the door as quickly as possible, preferably into the custody of the waiting gendarmes.

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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

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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, coronavirus, Michel Barnier, Negotiating

Doing #Brexit in the Days of #Covid19.

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Brexit is done. The United Kingdom has left the European Union. And it is always worth repeating that it was the UK’s decision to leave. It wasn’t asked to leave. Much less was it expelled. And, as elsewhere in life, leavers don’t normally get to dictate the terms of their leaving.

Brexit cannot now be cancelled, and the UK no longer has the option of remaining in the EU on current terms and conditions. The UK had no part in the negotiations over the past two weeks on the EU’s latest €500bn Covid-19 package and it will have no part in any future EU discussions on rebuilding Europe’s economies in the years ahead.

All that remains is for the EU and UK to work out the terms of the future relationship between the two. This agreement will not only need to cover the basics of trade in goods and services, but also issues as diverse as data transfers, aviation, road transport, financial services, fisheries, nuclear energy, personal and business travel arrangements, as well as potential UK participation in a wide range of EU scientific and other programs, if it wishes to do so.

While the UK has legally left the EU, the two sides have agreed a “transition year” to run until December 31, 2020. Because of this, there has been, to date, no visible impact of the UK’s exit. For the moment, there are no new custom checks and no new barriers to trade between the two. Travel between the UK and the EU, and vice versa, continues as before and UK citizens can still benefit from EU initiatives, such as the European Health Insurance Card (EIHC).

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Article 50, Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market

The #Brexit Syndrome Delusion

This blogpost was wrtitten on Friday Sept 27th.

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Wikipedia defines Stockholm Syndrome as

“a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. These alliances result from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time together, but they are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.”

However strongly the bond is felt, to the outside observer it is irrational, explainable only by the unreal circumstances created during the time of captivity.

A large part of the UK political class and the wider population now seem to be suffering from “Brexit Syndrome”. This is probably best defined as:

an irrational and emotional commitment to a political project which all objective evidence shows to be deeply damaging to the long-term national interest.

Brexit Syndrome causes many friends of the UK from across the world to shake their heads in disbelief that a previously pragmatic country could become so deluded.

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Brexit, British Government, Brussels, Michel Barnier, Negotiating

#Brexit: Dealing with the EU (Part 2 of a series of 3 blogposts)

This Blogpost was wrtitten on Monday Sept 16th

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As we wrote last week, it seems to us that if the UK was to “make Brexit work” three things were of fundamental importance.

  1. The government needed to develop a consensus in the UK about what Brexit meant, some form of widely-shared vision of what the UK outside the EU should look like.
  2. Resulting from one, negotiate a future deal with the EU that would minimise the impact of withdrawal on the UK economy and provide for a “good neighbour” relationship for the future
  3. Hope that geopolitical developments across the globe would fall favourable for a UK out of the EU, facilitating the conclusion of new trade deals which would open new export markets.

In last week’s BEERG Brexit Briefing we examined the failure of, first, Theresa May, and now Boris Johnson to attempt to build any consensus in the UK around what Brexit should mean in practice and how this lack of consensus was adversely impacting the UK’s discussions with the EU.

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Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Negotiating

#BorisJohnson’s Magical Mystery European #Brexit Tour

This blogpost was written late on Friday August 23

Merkel Johnson

When he became Prime Minister just a few weeks back, Boris Johnson told the world that he would not be running around European capitals, like Theresa May did, asking for a better Brexit deal. Instead, meetings would be held in London, with those annoying European leaders coming to see him.

Time to turn things around, to take back control. Oh, and before he would agree to see anyone the EU would need to “bin the Backstop”. That was a pre-condition to any talks.

No binning, no talks.

Well, that bulldog growl this week gave way to a little yelp as Johnson flew to Berlin and Paris, there to explain to Merkel and Macron why the Backstop had to go. Both politely insisted that the Backstop would stay, unless and until alternative arrangements to make the Backstop unnecessary could be agreed. Continue reading