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UK’s deep denial over Brexit will cause it huge problems

Whilst many Brexit newsletters seem to be available currently, they all seem to have one thing in common, they are quite UK-centric writes Tim McNamara. Unseen and often unreported developments in 27 other capitals can be at least, or even more, as important than the vague and sometimes contradictory messages emanating from Downing Street and Whitehall.

What should be concerning from the UK’s viewpoint is the attitude of the UK’s usual allies amongst the other Member States. Countries such as Sweden, Finland Denmark and the Netherlands may sympathise with the challenges facing the Prime Minister, but they are quite firm in their belief that the UK must get a deal that cannot be proclaimed as advantageous to the UK. Even the UK’s staunchest ally in trade matters, Germany, will not want to corral the EU27 into agreeing to a Soft Brexit.

Angela Merkel’s speech to Germany’s largest business association was quite indicative for being emphatic as to no free movement = no single market membership. What was more important was that the speech was extremely well-received by the representatives of German big business.

The UK needs to put a lot more effort to understand the position of their negotiation partner(s). Take the position of Sweden for example. It’s foreign policy now closely follows Germany and no longer chose the UK. This has happened since June 23rd. Like Germany, Netherlands, Denmark etc., the future viability of the EU will be paramount in any Brexit negotiations. The UK’s natural allies have already made this clear.

Even if a few Member States can be persuaded to back an acceptable deal to the UK, it will not be the individual member states who will be conducting the negotiations. It will be the Council of Ministers relying on the donkey work of the Commission to manage the process. Furthermore it will have to navigate the procedures of the European Parliament.

As things stand, once Article 50 is invoked the UK has very little control of the process. There will be no pressure on the EU to drive the negotiations forward as the UK will be virtually naked in the negotiation arenas. Even if there is no agreement after 2 years, the UK will have to accept some form of transitional arrangements unless it wants to see its economy ‘fall off a cliff’. Whilst brexit continues to be very high on the UK political agenda, media interest in the rest of the EU is already declining and it is only at times of crisis or summits that it returns to the political agenda.

May’s problem will be that any transition will almost certainly involve postponing Brexit, continuing to accept European Court of Justice rulings,As well as making contributions to the EU budget at a similar level as to day and delaying the time when immigration controls on EU citizens can be implemented.

It is difficult to see how this will be acceptable to the 20-30 `Brexit fundamentalists on the Tory benches when the Government only has a majority of 13.

Following on from the travails of the proposed EU-Canada free trade agreement, as things stand any future EU-UK trade deal will be a ‘mixed agreement’. Such an agreement would therefore have to be ratified by 37 separate parliamentary assemblies across the EU27. A ratification process that would be prolonged with several potential ‘bumps in the road’.

Four months on from the referendum, it is quite apparent that most issues surrounding Brexit remain unresolved by the current Government. It appears that the Chancellor and the Treasury is at odds with the three other Secretaries of State tasked with delivering Brexit and the Prime Minister has not resolved their differences.

Tim McNamara is the editor of www.policyreview.eu

 

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