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May's Summer Summit Diplomacy

by Frank Schnittger Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 11:09:27 AM EST

Oui has an excellent diary up on the lack of progress made by May's summer diplomatic offensive trying to reset the Brexit negotiations and make her already "dead in the water" Chequers strategy the basis for future discussions. May managed to achieve an opening negotiating position 18 months too late, only to have it thrashed by her own side before she could even bring it to Europe.

In terms of a coherent negotiating strategy, May also got her timing all wrong. Having given Barnier his negotiating brief, European leaders were hardly going to undermine the Brussels negotiating process by overruling current EU negotiating positions.

Getting an agreed negotiating position among 27 nations and other significant actors is actually a considerable (if unsung) achievement: Why would EU leaders want to unravel all of that and throw their side of the negotiation into utter confusion, possibly precipitating Barnier's resignation, and playing into classic UK divide and conquer tactics?


There is a scenario where it might make sense for the EU Council to take over the conduct of the negotiations from the Commission, but only in the context of a last minute crisis where the UK needs a symbolic concession to bring an agreement over the line. "Putting one over" hated Brussels Bureaucrats might be sufficient to sugar a very bitter pill from a UK point of view providing it with a PR victory even if it makes little difference to the substance of the Brexit agreement. May must be seen to have gone "to the ends of the earth" in order to get the best deal possible.

It is worth noting, in this context, that Article 50 makes no mention of the EU Commission whatsoever. It is merely an administrative convenience that the Council has delegated the conduct of the negotiation to the EU's chief administrative arm, although Commission support for any final Brexit deal might make it easier to achieve the required threshold of an enhanced qualified majority as defined by Article 238(3)(b) of the Lisbon Treaty.

An enhanced qualified majority is defined as "at least 72% of the members of the Council representing Member States comprising at least 65% of the population of these States" as opposed to the Article 238(3)(a) weighted majority requirement of "at least 55% of the members of the Council representing the participating Member States, comprising at least 65% of the population of these States." Normally an enhanced qualified majority is only required where "the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" but it is a requirement for an A.50 exit agreement in any case.

Others here may correct me on this, but I have not come across much informed speculation as to what actually transpired at these recent private bilateral Head of Government meetings with May. They may have been little more than courtesy meetings to give May the opportunity to look important and let off some steam. The UK would be making a grave error to mistake such courtesy for weakness.

So far the EU27's conduct of these negotiations has been little short of exemplary. All the EU leaders seem clear that the future of the EU depends on maintaining solidarity in these negotiations and ensuring that Brexit is not allowed to undermine the cohesion and functioning of the EU27 afterwards. All are clear that Brexit will result in at least some economic dislocation for their economies, but that this is less bad than allowing it to undermine the functioning of the EU as a whole.

The sad fact, from an EU27 perspective, is that Brexit cannot be allowed to be a success for the UK, as this would undermine the raison d'être of the EU27 as a whole. An EU27 may be a less optimal arrangement than an EU28 with the UK included, but it is a lot preferable to the break-up of the EU altogether.

Jeremy Hunt has already started the blame games in preparation of a no deal Brexit, but it is not Tory hardliners who would benefit most, despite their professed alacrity at such an outcome. It is the EU as a political project which would benefit most, as it does from Trump's depredations, despite the short term economic damage such an outcome would also do to the EU27.

In this context, the UK's attempts to build an alliance with Trump's USA could not be going any less well. Not only does Trump's Presidency appear to be unraveling, but Trumps's advice that the UK should sue the EU rather than negotiate, could not have been less helpful. What Court should the UK sue in? The European Court of Justice whose jurisdiction May is determined to leave? And on what basis? Article 50 gives no guarantees, and even provides for a no-deal Brexit.

And so it is that both sides are now stepping up their preparations for a no-deal Brexit, both to prepare for the increasing probability of such an outcome, and to concentrate the minds of partisans on both sides on the actual real world consequences of such an outcome. From having been described by Liam Fox as the easiest thing in human history, a Brexit deal is becoming almost impossible to agree.

The UK's resilient economic performance to date, albeit less robust than any of its G7 competitors has so far insulated UK voters from the worst consequences of Brexit with the result that there has only been a relatively small movement in opinion polling on Brexit to date.

The EU27 may well come to the view that it will still take some years for UK attitudes and expectations to change to a sufficient degree to make a post-Brexit deal with the UK a realistic possibility. Given the likelihood that a no-deal split will be extremely acrimonious and lead to a post Brexit surge in British nationalism, it may be a very long time before a more constructive EU/UK relationship become politically possible.

In this context May's summer summit diplomacy must be seen as an act of desperation rather than a shrewd political move with any realistic prospect of success. The reality is that all sides are now preparing for an almost inevitable failure. The UK may be hoping that the EU will ignore its own rules and do business as before in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but that is simply not going to happen. The EU is a multinational construct bound by treaties, laws and rules that cannot simply be bent to suit a departing member.

On a purely practical level, EU firms would not be able to compete with UK firms after a further, likely, devaluation of Sterling by up to 20%. Especially where WTO tariffs do not apply, the EU will be forced to erect non-tariff barriers, if only to protect its own industries in a context where exports to the UK are bound to suffer through sterling devaluation.

Ireland could be the big loser in all of this, but that is a topic for another diary!

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It has always been extremely disingenuous and hypocritical for the Tory government to claim they want a broad and deep friendship with the EU when Brexit is nothing less than a full frontal attack on the EU. Frankly the EU owes them nothing and even the prospect of losing the €40 Billion Brexit payment is a pittance when compared to the wilful damage Brexit will do. May likes to repeat her mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal" but that applies to the EU just as forcefully.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 02:48:53 PM EST
Brexit: UK to seek deal on North-South trade in case of no-deal Brexit
The British government will seek to negotiate a special arrangement for North-South trade to ensure that the Border remains open even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But trade between the Republic and the rest of the United Kingdom could be subject to the same bureaucratic arrangements facing other EU member-states.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the British government would maintain its commitment to keeping the Border open regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations but he refused to rule out differentiated arrangements for Irish firms trading with the rest of the UK.

I'm sure the EU will be only too keen to allow the UK preferential access to the Irish market without any border controls...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 03:00:15 PM EST
keeping the Border open regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations

I've got an idea. They could simply send in the army to keep the border open.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 10:14:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"It is merely an administrative convenience that the Council has delegated the conduct of the negotiation to the EU's chief administrative arm, although Commission support for any final Brexit deal ..."

Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 TEU (TF50)

The EU is represented by Michel Barnier, as Chief Negotiator for the 27 EU countries. His Task Force at the European Commission coordinates the work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to the negotiations.

Negotiating EU trade agreements: Who does what and how we reach a final deal

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 06:42:32 PM EST
It makes sense for the Council to utilize the Commission's wide ranging experience and expertise in preparing and negotiating FTA's and other treaties aimed at furthering EU development. Whatever form any Brexit deal takes will also be a precedent and template for any future deals. It is also important to separate the negotiation and ratification processes, the latter being the prerogative of the Council.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 07:07:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:
They may have been little more than courtesy meetings to give May the opportunity to look important and let off some steam. The UK would be making a grave error to mistake such courtesy for weakness.
You mean they saw her coming from a hundred miles kilometers?

The EU27 may well come to the view that it will still take some years for UK attitudes and expectations to change to a sufficient degree to make a post-Brexit deal with the UK a realistic possibility. Given the likelihood that a no-deal split will be extremely acrimonious and lead to a post Brexit surge in British nationalism, it may be a very long time before a more constructive EU/UK relationship become politically possible.

This is why it is important for the EU27 to emphasize that "the door is still open". Just like the response to A50 last year was: sorry to see you go but we respect the people's choice.

There's a whole generation in the UK (the Erasmus generation) who's been robbed of their European identity they've been used to since birth by mostly older people and their oligarchy. They may want to come back to the EU at some point, but first they'll have to get rid of a good part of their ruling class.

As a Frenchman, I have an idea, but YMMV:
 

by Bernard on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 07:13:13 PM EST
I don't think your suggestion is that far off. It is difficult to imagine the UK coming back into a close relationship with the EU without some sort of political revolution - preceded by Scottish independence and a united Ireland...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 07:25:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming Scottish independence and Irish unification leaves only England and Wales. I don't see a chance of England voting to join the EU, to be honest. Even if Brexit is an unmitigated economic disaster English nationalism will blame the EU for it.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 03:00:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What would even be the point? I think we all agree that there is no way for the UK to rejoin quickly. And if the country can avoid descending into cannibalism once the Spam reserves run out and get back some stability joining the EU looks like a dubious prospect. For one the EU is still institutionally committed to bad economic theories and pure graft ("privatisation"). More importantly the UK will have lost all the capacity and most of the skill base they used to profit from the old arrangement, while whatever relationships they struck up and unconventional policies they set up to get themselves through the chaos would have to be set aside again.
by generic on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 03:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
< wipes tears >

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 04:16:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point would be to rejoin the customs union and/or the single market. Also, the premise above was that the Erasmus generation will want to regain free movement, bad economic policies notwithstanding.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 04:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no, no. By then, we will have fixed the EU, comrade. And conditions will be perfect for a left Brentry. Unicorns permitting.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 27th, 2018 at 09:03:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The ruling class hates Brexit. They just aren't in charge, as it turns out.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 04:00:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are the Captains of Industry and the Robber Barons. Those who prefer stodgy (and realistic) business as usual, and those who dream of unfettered quick-buck fuck-you capitalism.

The ruling class is not monolithic. Who knew?

I used to be afew. I'm still not many.

by john_evans (john(dot)evans(dot)et(at)gmail(dot)com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2018 at 04:24:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point has been made (by someone on the internet) that, for the first time in history, the Conservative party is behaving in a decidedly unconservative manner. It will likely be the death of the party -- but is that even a good thing?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 27th, 2018 at 09:07:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's see what will replace it; nothing pretty, I'm afraid.
by Bernard on Mon Aug 27th, 2018 at 06:41:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is likely we will avoid a no-deal Brexit - but the alternative doesn't look much better
There's an unwritten rule in the EU club: national leaders help each other out at times of domestic difficulty. It might be an election, internal strife in their party or a challenge to their position.

Theresa May is trying to play this card as she meets Emmanuel Macron today at his summer retreat in the south of France. But so far, the EU has done May favours only when it was in their own interests. Last December, they agreed that sufficient progress had been made to move on to phase two of the Brexit talks, largely because they feared May would be toppled (and replaced by someone worse).

The blunt truth is that, while the UK is still technically a member of the club until next March, the special favours rule ceased to apply once May declared that "Brexit means Brexit." The UK is already viewed as a "third country" by the rest of the EU.

That's why the UK has failed in its attempt to "divide and rule" the EU in the negotiations. The EU27 has been impressively united; the cracks that British ministers have long predicted have not appeared. They blame the intransigence of Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief negotiator, but he is implementing the mandate given to him by the 27 leaders.

h/t Oui

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2018 at 07:22:11 PM EST
Well, it is not so difficult to maintain cohesion when faced with nothing. Who knows if the Council would have maintained discipline if the Tories had an actual negotiation position and some idea of what kind of relationship they are aiming for.
by generic on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 08:18:12 AM EST
The British government's conduct of the exit negotiations is perhaps best understood as good old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy. But without the gunboats.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 10:17:32 AM EST
Or the diplomacy.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 at 03:33:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But with more Boris


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Aug 25th, 2018 at 02:49:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only economic discussion the Left needs is how to deal with the coming crisis
So, lets imagine why the Left needs something different, and what the circumstances might be when it has to deliver on any such policy. This is important. Because let's be clear, if the next election happens when Brexit has occurred, the economy is humming, the books are balanced, all is going well and people feel good about their prospects Labour is not going to win power. Let's not pretend otherwise: if austerity and Brexit deliver in combination the Tories will take the next election with a big majority.

What are the chances of that? Close to zero, in my opinion

by generic on Tue Aug 28th, 2018 at 10:00:29 PM EST


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