The Brief – Brexit à la carte

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Rarely in politics does despair become hope, as has happened with the Brexit negotiations.

By extending the olive branch to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who she has spent the last two years lampooning as ‘unfit to govern’, Theresa May has come as close to abandoning her Brexit deal as is possible. She has also spelt out in technicolour her determination to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

For all the heightened talk of a ‘no deal’ scenario from Messrs Barnier, Juncker and Macron earlier this week, there is an obvious way to avoid the cliff-edge without Brussels or Westminster making an irretrievable compromise.

One major tactical mistake on both the UK and EU sides was the shaping of the Political Declaration. Part of its weakness, which has given rise to complaints by MPs that they won’t vote for a ‘blindfold Brexit’, is that it is vague to the point of being meaningless. One option on the table last autumn was to restrict the Political Declaration to a menu of future options e.g. Canada, Norway, customs union membership, and others.

For some reason, the Brexit à la carte never became a reality. That was a mistake that should swiftly be rectified – though the UK’s history of cherry-picking its EU membership means that it might be wise to avoid the phrase ‘à la carte’…

There is little risk to either party in turning the Declaration into a ‘Menu of Options’. It is almost certain that there will be at least one change of Prime Minister and a general election before the agreement on future relations is finalized.

A general election will probably be held within the next six months.

The alternative is, almost certainly, a ‘no deal’ Brexit since MPs are not going to back May’s deal or – it seems – any alternative before April 12.

As ever, the reading in Brussels and London of what a ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean for the other side is wildly wide of the mark.

The prevailing wisdom in the European Commission and many capitals is that a ‘no deal’ would cause such profound economic damage that the UK would return within weeks to gratefully sign the Withdrawal Agreement. This is as much a fantasy as the belief of hard Brexiteers that a ‘managed no deal’ exists, whereby a series of mini-deals can be struck sector by sector.

The reality is that a ‘no deal’ would mark a seismic rupture in political relations in Europe, the further radicalisation of the Conservative party and, potentially, a very populist UK leader. Avoiding this is in everyone’s interest.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Theresa May appeared to pave the way for accepting a softer Brexit, as she offered to enter talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in a bid to build cross-party support and break the Brexit impasse.

Gibraltar is a ‘colony,’ MEPs stated in a regulation visa-free access to the EU for UK citizens after Brexit that refers to the British Overseas Terrority Gibraltar as such.

A preferential UK tax scheme designed to attract multinational companies partially violated EU state aid rules, the European Commission concluded.

It is now up to the capitals to decide if they want to “bite the bullet” when it comes to possible breaches of rule of law.

Rising populism and anti-EU sentiment mean the May elections are being portrayed as a “fateful election for Europe”.

In a wide-ranging interview, the former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, doesn’t mince his words criticising his former party, the ruling PSD.

Better regulation won’t divert attention away from Facebook’s shortfalls in other areas, European Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told EURACTIV.

A proposal to introduce stricter criteria for foreign bidders to access Europe’s multi-billion public procurement market remains deadlocked.

Floods, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related extremes caused economic losses of €453 billion between 1980 and 2017, claiming the lives of more than 115,000 people across Europe.

The EU has a historic opportunity to protect the Southern Ocean at the upcoming EU-China summit, write Geneviève Pons and Pascal Lamy.

MEPs rubber-stamped the first portion of next the next CAP, shedding spotlight on wine and the ‘real’ steak.

Member states have failed to convince France to approve the negotiating mandates for the trade negotiations with the US, but hoped to find a compromise to accommodate Paris’ concerns before Easter break, European officials and diplomats told EURACTIV.com.

Look out for…

Amid the controversy around the appointment of the EU’s first chief prosecutor, Commissioner Frans Timmermans receives representatives of Romanian judges and prosecutors associations.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Samuel Stolton]

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute