The Brief, powered by BP – Welcome to uncharted territory

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

It is not often that we knowingly witness history in the making before our own eyes, but today we’ve had one of those moments.

The UK election results have left no room for doubt: in the space of six weeks, the country will leave the EU. Regardless of whether we feel sad, jubilant, angry, worried, or indifferent, one thing is certain – no one knows for sure how this will play out.

The EU, as well as London, is sailing into uncharted waters. Losing a member, after building European unity and solidarity for more than 60 years, ain’t easy. Behind all the brave words on the European side, there is unspoken fear.

What if the UK leaves unscathed and then negotiates a good deal with the EU? Johnson will shout from the rooftops about having taken back control and ending up even better off than before. Could it possibly encourage some more skeptical EU countries to follow London’s lead?

On the other hand, to reach a good deal would mean agreeing to many EU standards and requirements. So what exactly will the UK gain, if it ends up following all the standards and principles, without being able to shape them? That is something Johnson may have to address in the next election campaign.

But before any of that happens, London and Brussels will have to negotiate a comprehensive trade deal, and will have to accomplish that in under 11 months, unless Johnson agrees to forego his pledge and ask for an extension.

And then, he will have to weather the Scottish storm, while keeping his fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong in Northern Ireland. Nicola Sturgeon is now more or less forced to push for a second Scottish independence referendum, which Johnson will have to deny if he wants to survive.

And in the EU, some will be thinking ‘good riddance’, while others will say ‘it will never be the same again without the Brits’. For even with all their posturing, rebates, exceptions, waywardness and lack of real European commitment, they were an integral part of the EU and a whimsy but useful counterweight to France and Germany.

In the post-Brexit world, will the UK be friend or foe? Will they side with Trump against the EU? Or will they act as an honest broker and help restore multilateralism?

Before this Commission’s mandate ends, we’ll have most of the answers.

Brexit Monster, by cartoonist Selion

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The Roundup

EU leaders signed off on an ambitious climate plan for 2050 early Friday morning, but it lacked the backing of Poland, which maintained its objections to the climate-neutral target for the time-being.

Poland would not be eligible for EU funds available under the European Green Deal if it does not sign up to the EU’s climate objectives, French President Emmanuel Macron warned.

As Germany’s leadership on climate fades out, Britain’s departure from the European Union could have “potentially huge” consequences for climate policy, says Sandrine Dixson-Declève.

As civil society pushes for more ambition in fighting climate change, the slow pace of negotiations at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid is frustrating activists.

After three and a half years, there is finally closure. There will be no second UK referendum. The country will leave the European Union in January, after Boris Johnson’s resounding electoral triumph.

EU leaders put on a brave face and congratulated Johnson on his resounding victory in the UK elections, which means he will take the country out of the EU next month, after three years of Brexit frustrations.

The European Council has asked the Commission to present a mandate to start post-Brexit negotiations with the UK as soon as possible.

The Scottish National Party will next week unveil a “detailed democratic case for the transfer of power” that may enable a second Scottish independence referendum to take place in the near future.

The ECB will next year review its tools and objectives in order to better fulfil its mandate of price stability, and it also intends to assess the appropriateness of issuing its own digital currency, in the face of growing concerns about Facebook’s Libra.

Malta’s Prime Minister Josep Muscat came under increasing pressure as calls for his immediate resignation intensified in Brussels in an ongoing investigation over the 2017 assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Anne Caruana Galizia.

The European Council handed over negotiation duties for the next EU long-term budget to its president, Charles Michel, during the first round of the December summit.

The European Commission is considering removing coking coal from a list of critical raw materials. The steel industry, already facing difficulty importing the raw materials it needs, says this could spell disaster.

Look out for…

The European Parliament’s last Strasbourg plenary of the year.

Views are the author’s

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