Challenging Negotiations

Article 50 has been triggered, and Janice Morphet wonders if the UK can sustain the shock. While the situation of Scotland attracts quite some news coverage, the issues of Northern Ireland are also likely to grow in importance. The peace plan with Ireland, which started with the Good Friday agreement will unravel in case of the introduction of a hard border between the UK and the EU. As UK negotiators are trying a “divide and rule” approach with the 27, it seems likely that they shall try the same with Scotland and Northern Ireland. A similar point is made by James Anderson, who comments that any attempt to re-impose a hard border would be highly disruptive and extremely unpopular, not only among local border communities but across the entire island. There would inevitably be widespread popular resistance and civil disobedience in that scenario.

Another unstable territory is Gibraltar, an item that was brought into the negotiations by Spain. According to Paul Mason, the dramatized response by some Tories, who evoked the Falklands war, was excessive. This attitude only makes sense only if you buy the wider theory that Britain’s future after Brexit involves rekindling its colonial empire. Economist Andrew Lilico advocates the creation of an alliance called Canzuk, involving Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand due to their cultural similarities–even though Britain’s trade with the Canzuk countries amounts to just 3% of GDP, and they are very far apart.

Andrew Rawnsley recognizes that Theresa May’s letter to the EU, in which she invoked Article 50, was surprisingly constructive and welcomes the change of tone from her previous incendiary rhetoric. In the past, Brexiters have given the impression of viewing the negotiation as a zero-sum game, where one party can only win at the expense of the other. May will not be able to bluff her way through it as other EU leaders also have parliaments to answer to, media to worry about and voters to satisfy. If she hopes to achieve “the best possible deal for Britain’s economy”, she will have to be honest with the public and her party about the compromises that will be required to reach an agreement. According to Per Magnus Wijkman Brexit is actually lose-lose proposition, as the UK risks losing half of its trade, which is directed towards the EU, and the EU risks undergoing a disintegration process. Both sides must be able to compare the net costs of Brexit and those of a new trade agreement with the costs/benefits of continued EU membership if they are to make an informed decision. This requires the parties to negotiate the terms of both Brexit and of the new trade agreement before making a decision, and then having another referendum between the two options.

Sam Fowles worries however that the “Henry VIII” powers which are meant to smooth Britain’s exit from the EU may give the government the scope to make wider legislative changes. Around 14% of primary legislation incorporates some degree of EU influence. The repeal bill will thus give ministers greater powers than parliament in relation to more than a tenth of all UK law. The only limit that the government proposes to its use of the Henry VIII powers is a guarantee that they will only be used for “technical amendments”. Yet the decision on what is classed as “technical” appears to reside within the government. The government’s own example of a “technical amendment”, removing consultations required before oil companies are permitted to build in protected habitats, does not give any reason to be optimistic.

The EU after Brexit

Roland Benedikter and Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski argue that despite Brexit, the future of the EU is brighter than many expect. The Union remains the biggest economic space in the world, and while many times it has been predicted to fail, it has always emerged stronger. Moreover, the youth in the EU-27 now clings to Europe more than ever, and has been positively mobilized by Brexit. Finally, reforms are underway (and easier without the UK), starting from a Joint European Army as a response to external and internal threats.

Natalie Nougayrède shares these opinions: she thinks the EU is just going through a “midlife crisis”, in which it realizes that its dreams are unlikely to come true, yet it does not discard its notable achievements. In fact, the EU represents 7% of the world’s population, approximately 23% of global GDP and 50% of global public spending. Most importantly, it is one of the region in the world with the highest standard of living, where people are risking their life for just a small chance to get in. Sergio Fabbrini thinks that we can be optimistic to the extent that the future EU steers towards a federal union, rather than a federal state. The only realistic path involves having only three competences at the federal level: space, security, economy and development. Yet, each of these must have exclusive general jurisdictional scope (i.e. no opt-outs).

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC muffinn 

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Also published on Medium.

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