EU Doesn’t Budge on Brexit

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland talk during a European Council summit in Salzburg, Austria, September 20
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland talk during a European Council summit in Salzburg, Austria, September 20 (KPRM/Krystian Maj)

The EU summit in Salzburg, Austria has driven home two truths about Brexit:

  1. The United Kingdom cannot cherrypick the conditions of its future relations with the EU. If it wants to stay in the single market, it must accept the same terms as Iceland and Norway.
  2. There is no point in going over Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s head and appealing directly to EU leaders.

None of this should be news. Read more

Blunt Talk for Brexiteers

Boris Johnson, Britain's foreign secretary, arrives for a meeting in London, England, September 9, 2016
Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, arrives for a meeting in London, England, September 9, 2016 (FCO)

It’s been seventeen months since the Brexit talks began and, judging by their recent commentary, including Boris Johnson’s latest column in The Telegraph, the Brexiteers are still laboring under delusions about the outcome.

So let’s be blunt. Read more

No-Deal Brexit Becomes More Likely

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and António Costa of Portugal talk during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 29
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and António Costa of Portugal talk during a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 29 (Governo da República Portuguesa)

Chances that the United Kingdom will tumble out of the EU without an agreement are increasing.

  • Conservative Party hardliners are still unwilling to accept the EU’s terms.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May now apes their rhetoric in arguing that a no-deal Brexit would not be “the end of the world”.
  • She also downplays the Treasury’s estimate that the British economy would shrink 8.8 percent without an exit deal as “a work in progress”.
  • Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, has released 24 technical notices advising industries on how to cope with a no-deal Brexit. Read more

Brexiteers Are Still in Denial About What Leaving the EU Means

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with ministers at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, England, February 22
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with ministers at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, England, February 22 (MoD)

British ministers are due to meet at the prime minister’s Chequers country retreat this weekend to hammer out a Brexit strategy.

The conclave is unlikely to produce a breakthrough. The EU hasn’t budged from its position. Neither have hardliners in Theresa May’s government. Read more

EU Rejects Northern Ireland Proposals, Italy No Closer to Government

British and European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016
British and European flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

The EU has rejected British proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ulster, with a source telling The Telegraph, “It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal… It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them.”

Keep in mind that The Telegraph is a right-wing, pro-Brexit newspaper, so its sources may be attempting to put pressure on EU negotiators.

According to the report, the EU rejected:

  • A “customs partnership”, under which British would collect EU tariffs on goods destined for EU markets, as needlessly complex; and
  • A “highly streamlined customs arrangement” as effectively “turning a blind eye” to goods coming from non-EU countries.

The United Kingdom has committed to keeping Northern Ireland in full regulatory alignment with the EU in order to avoid a border with Ireland. The easiest way to accomplish that would be to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs unions, however, that is unacceptable to hardline unionists in Theresa May’s government. Read more

Britain, EU Agree Transition Deal, Black Men Face Challenges in America

David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017
David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017 (European Commission)

The United Kingdom has agreed to remain part of the European single market during the transition period following its departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.

For the next year and a half, goods, services, capital and people would continue to move freely in and out of the United Kingdom. However, London will no longer have a say in the making of EU rules, including fishing quotas.

Other parts of the transition agreement include:

  • Britain will be allowed to negotiate and sign trade deals that go into effect after December 31, 2020.
  • Short of an innovative solution, Northern Ireland will continue to live under EU regulations, avoiding the need for a hard border in Ulster but creating the need for one between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Hardliners in Britain are appalled by the concessions. Read more

Rutte Urges EU Pragmatism, May’s Speech Heard Very Differently in Europe

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte called for pragmatism in a speech in Berlin in Friday. The best way to take the wind out of the sails of Euroskeptic parties, he said, is to show results:

Lofty visions do not create jobs or security. Nor does shouting from the ends of the political spectrum. Only hard work […] produces results that benefit people in their daily lives.

The Merkelian rhetoric is a reality check for French president Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed far-reaching reforms in Europe.

With Britain, traditionally an ally, leaving the bloc, the Netherlands is becoming more vocal in resisting what it — and the German right — fear would amount to transfer union: the permanent subsidization of poorer member states by the wealthy.

There was a discrepancy in coverage. Dutch media emphasized the many positive things Rutte said about the EU. Foreign outlets focused on his “red lines”. The reason is that Rutte is considered more of a Euroskeptic at home than he is abroad. Read more