Brussels Viewpoint – Back to the Future with Brexit

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This article by Denise Grech was published first on Diplomatique.Expert, Corporate Dispatch’s ePublication. 

 

We were supposed to see Brexit get done with the election of Boris Johnson. After the UK formally withdrew from the EU at the end of last January, we are now just starting to see what this new leg of negotiations for an agreement on future UK-EU relations will look like.

Maybe some had hoped that the new negotiations would see less tension between chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But it was back to the old barbs between the two: going back and forth on what decisions on the single market and the customs union would look like.

 

Earlier last week, the UK set out its negotiating plan and the EU did the same. Unsurprisingly, the two do not match. The EU understandably wants to protect its interests, and it can’t do so by offering a lovely tariff-free deal without anything attached. This shouldn’t be a surprise to London.

But back in the UK, there still remains a myth that Johnson’s wide national support will mean that he is in a stronger position to negotiate with the EU. But no wide majority eliminates the fact that the EU still has its own interests to protect. Johnson’s majority, however, does mean that the EU can take promises more at face value – since he won’t need to stay going back to the UK Parliament to convince them that his position is the ideal one.

Many would say this was predictable. But it does place the Conservative Party’s slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’ in perspective. And it also shows that we’ll have a lot of bitterness to witness over the next few months.

The negotiations will all come down to the economy – whether Johnson will pay attention to economic forecasts that may predict problems for the UK if him and the EU don’t reach a compromise. He won’t receive Opposition from his Parliament, because of a strong majority, but he might listen to economic forecasts spelling doom should he stick to a hard Brexit stance.

Denise Grech 

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