Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May

The #Brexit #WithdrawalAgreement negotiation – Could Anyone Else Have Done Better?

This Blog was written on Sun, Dec 2nd 2018

 

Commons Vote

At the time of writing the Commons vote on the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement looks like it will result in a very heavy defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Depending on which pundit you heed, anywhere between 65 and 90 Conservative MPs are expected to vote against the WA. When you add the government-supporting DUP, as well as all the opposition parties. the majority against could be up to 200 votes. For the moment there is little point in speculating as to what happens next. Quite simply, no one knows.

So, when Michael Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on the EU side, and Theresa May on the UK side, say that the Withdrawal Agreement, and the accompanying Political Declaration, is the only deal available and that the choice facing the UK Parliament is the deal on the table, no deal, or remain in the EU, are they right?

I believe they are. That is indeed the choice MPs are faced with. Of course, the choice can be passed by parliament to the people in a second referendum, but it will still be the same choice: deal, no deal or remain.

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Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

A Bad Week for Theresa May on #Brexit in #Salzburg

Salzburg Dinner
Pic: Getty Images via BBC website

This blog was written on Sept 21st, 2018

In our Brexit Briefing last Tuesday (here) I wrote:

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

What happened yesterday in Salzburg, when the EU brutally said that Mrs. May’s Chequers plan was unacceptable and would not work underscores the truth of this statement.

In the run-up to Salzburg it had been widely reported, especially in the UK press, that Mrs. May would use the occasion to appeal to the EU’s political leaders to go over the head of the “Brussels theologians” and show more flexibility in accommodating UK demands to be both in and out of the EU’s single market and customs union at the same time. “In” so as to ensure continued frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU so preserving the UK as the European off-shore manufacturing base for US, Japanese and, in the future, Chinese companies.

“Out” for services allowing the UK to cut buccaneering trade deals, with which a swath of UK politicians have an ideological obsession, with non-EU countries.

(For the arguments on why this approach was never going to work see this excellent article by former Irish ambassador, Bobby McDonagh: here)

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Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Negotiating, Northern Ireland

Dick Barton Word Games Don’t Work on #Brexit

This blog was written on May 21 2018

dick-barton1Between 1946 and 1951, BBC radio aired a popular thriller, Dick Barton – Special Agent. The serial followed the adventures of ex-Commando Captain Richard Barton who, with his mates Jock Anderson and Snowy White, solved all sorts of crimes, escaped from dangerous situations, and saved Britain from disaster time and again.

It gave rise to a popular catchphrase of the late 1940s “With one bound Dick was free!” No matter how dangerous the cliffhanging situation Dick found himself in at the end of each episode, he would always escape by the easiest and most completely implausible method, ready to face danger yet again.

It seems that the UK government believes that it has found a “Dick Barton” escape from the troubles by which it is beset on all sides by Brexit.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, David Davis, Irish border, Negotiating

#Brexit Illusions Are Now Meeting Reality

This post was written today, March 23, 2018

waves-breakToday, Friday, March 23, at the time of writing, the European Council of the heads of government of the (remaining) 27 Member States are expected to sign off, politically, on the details of the transition arrangement that the UK government had requested be put in place after it leaves the EU on March 29th, 2019.

The transition will run until December 31, 2020. During that time the UK will be bound by all EU laws and procedures, including new laws, and will also be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court. But it will have no role in EU governance meaning it will not attend Council meetings, it will have no members of the European Parliament and will have no Commissioner.

Arriving in Brussels on Thursday, Mrs May said:

“I’m looking forward to talking about Brexit. We made considerable progress through the agreement on the implementation period, which will bring certainty to businesses and people.”

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

Opting-Out and Opting-In on #BREXIT

This blog was written on March 9th 2018

Tusk IrlIn the Roman republic in the 2nd century BCE prior to the Third Punic War against Carthage, the Roman senator Cato the Elder is said to have concluded all of his speeches, no matter what the topic, with the words “Carthage must be destroyed”.

It seems to us that we should begin every piece we write on Brexit with the somewhat longer phrase: “The UK is not being expelled from the EU. It wasn’t even asked to leave. It freely decided to leave.”

Remarks yesterday by the UK’s International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox underscore the need to keep reminding ourselves of this basic fact. Dr. Fox said that “… the idea of (the EU) punishing Britain to me is not the language of a club, it’s the language of a gang.”

Apart from the gratuitous insult in referring to EU representatives as gangsters, Dr. Fox also fails to grasp the point that the UK is leaving the club and leavers do not get treated the same as remainers. “We want to partner with our fellow Member States”, he said. But that’s the point. They are no longer your fellow Member States. You decided that.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, Theresa May

4 Ts are needed in #Brexit Talks: Timescale; Table; Team & Truth

This blog was written and posted on Feb 18th, 2018:

BELGIUM-BRITAIN-EU-BREXITLast Monday I came across a Twitter exchange between two prominent Brexit supporters. Not politicians, but well-known members of the commentariat.

One of them accepted what the UK government had signed up to as regards the avoidance of a border in Ireland in Article 59 of last December’s “Article 50, Phase 1” agreement. However, she believed that the UK government had been trapped into doing so and should now actively be looking for a way out. Welch on the deal, in deed if not in word.

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Brexit, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

#Brexit: The UK Government’s BATNA Dilemma

Koji Tsuruoaka, Japan's ambassador to Britain, speaks outside 10 Downing Street after a meeting between Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and senior members of Japanese companies, in LondonIt seems to us that a great deal of press and other comments about the supposed disunity within the UK cabinet about Brexit frames it slightly wrong. The cabinet is not split over what it wants from the Brexit discussions. It knows exactly what it wants.

The problem arises over what to do when it doesn’t get what it wants. and it already knows that you can’t always get what you want. The real problem is that the cabinet, in the language of professional negotiators, cannot agree on its BATNA, its Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

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