Federal Trust Blog

Cliff edge or capitulation? The options for EU/UK trade negotiations

Photo credit: European Union

by Dr Andrew Blick
Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

13th March 2020

At some point in the coming months, political discourse in UK will move on from its current focus on the single issue of the pandemic and its domestic implications. At that point we will see renewed interest in a recurring theme of the last four years: the cliff edge, after which the UK might find itself outside the EU with no trade agreement with this organisation in place. Following UK departure from the EU on 31 January, a transition period came into force. It facilitates the temporary avoidance of disruption, by continuing many aspects of membership. At present, this phase comes to an end on 31 December 2020. There is a possibility to extend it by either one or by two years. A decision to do so must be taken by July 2020. However, the UK government has clearly set itself against doing so; and domestic legislation dealing with the withdrawal agreement prevents the UK government from consenting to any such extension.

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The view from Brussels of the EU-UK negotiations: a total illusion of “independence”

Photo credit: European Union

by Graham Bishop
Consultant on EU integration;
Founder of grahambishop.com

9th March 2020

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The smoke may be clearing from the opening salvoes in the Great Negotiation War and I happened to be in Brussels for a conference just after the `negotiations’ finished last week. My clear conclusion is that the UK is about to be sacrificed on the altar of an ideological purity about independence that is a total illusion.

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Appeasing Brexiteers

by Dr Andrew Black
Senior Research Fellow at Global Policy Institute; Senior Research Fellow, Brunel Business School

26th February 2020

“A week is a long time in politics” according to Harold Wilson, the first Labour Party prime minister to break 13 years of Conservative party rule. A year is an even longer time, and a very great deal can happen during that time, particularly to governments led by the Conservative Party. Conservative majorities are far from being a guarantee of stability, and even less of a guarantee for success.

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Brexit: The British government starts to recognise reality

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

14th February 2020

Michael Gove’s acknowledgement that trade between the UK and the EU after 1st January 2021 will be far from frictionless is a watershed in the Brexit process. The claim that Brexit would not significantly impinge upon British trade with the European Union was central to the 2016 Leave campaign. So central indeed that government ministers spent the three years thereafter repeating this dishonest assurance in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary.

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Negotiating with a bloc seven times your size: Clash no 1 – Financial Services

by Graham Bishop
Consultant on EU integration;
Founder of grahambishop.com

13th February 2020

The UK has the same rules as the EU at this instant – but EU rules are evolving continuously under the pressure of technological change. The main Directive about trading securities is about to be examined later this year – as part of the normal review cycle. The UK will not be at the table when the EU debates reversing a key concession to the UK after the Great Financial Crash. Very technical – Yes, but very significant!

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Anti-federalist Europeanism: a theoretical and practical impossibility?

by Dr Andrew Blick
Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

14th February 2020

Criticism of the European Union in United Kingdom (UK) political discourse has often focused upon the proposition that as a project it is federal in nature. For this reason, according to such theses, membership has always been incompatible with UK constitutional traditions, and poses an unwelcome threat to the integrity of the UK as an autonomous ‘sovereign’ state. It is in its response to such assertions that the supposed pro-European movement committed what was perhaps its fundamental error. Representatives of the mainstream integrationist side of the argument allowed themselves to be imprisoned by the logic that flowed from acceptance of the premise that, from a UK perspective, the undesirability of federalism was axiomatic. Rather than challenge this presumption, the typical retort was to claim that the European Union (EU) (or its predecessors) was not federal in nature; or that any tendencies in this direction could be diluted or mitigated, and that UK membership was therefore – at least on balance – desirable.

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Scotland’s Shifting Politics in the Face of Brexit

by Dr Kirsty Hughes

Director, Scottish Centre on European Relations

12th February 2019

Brexit day has come and gone. There were Saltires, EU flags and crowds at the Scottish parliament. But while everything changed as the UK left the EU, is it, for now, the case that nothing has changed in Scottish politics? It seems not. It’s early days but the combination of Brexit with Boris Johnson as prime minister is already impacting on Scotland’s political dynamics. And that impact is surely only going to strengthen.

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Brexit: Rejoiners must learn from their mistakes

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

22nd January 2020

Many members of the “Remain Coalition” have been disappointed by the role played by the European issue in the leadership contest of the Labour Party. No candidate has suggested a policy of continuing opposition to Brexit.  Some candidates have on the contrary sought to argue that Labour’s ambiguous European policy during the General Election was responsible for alienating potential supporters favourable to Brexit.   Even the traditionally pro-European Keir Starmer, one of the favourites to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, has spoken of the General Election as resolving the issue of Brexit for the foreseeable future and has been unwilling to commit himself to campaign for British re-entry to the European Union. Such disappointment is understandable but may be premature. Keir Starmer has a leadership election to win, and if he wins it his highly-developed forensic skills will come rapidly to the fore in the dismantlement of the fantasies that underpin most rhetoric in favour of Brexit. The likelihood must be that if he does become Labour Leader Starmer will have plentiful opportunity to edge his party towards the unequivocal opposition to Brexit that most of the Party’s members and voters would favour. As 2020 goes by it will inevitably become more difficult for the Labour Party to maintain the theoretical distinction so beloved of Jeremy Corbyn between his Party’s opposition to whatever form of Brexit Boris Johnson ends up negotiating and opposition to Brexit itself.

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Leaving one Union, dividing another: The Irish border, the exit agreement and its implications

by Dr Andrew Blick
Reader in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London; Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

22nd January 2020

In February 2018, when serving as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson was reported telling journalists that ‘the particular problems around the Irish border are being used to drive the whole Brexit argument and effectively to try to frustrate Brexit’. The following year, he rose to the Conservative leadership and office of Prime Minister. In bidding for this role, a central part of the Johnson campaign was his claim that he could overcome the ‘Irish border’ obstacle to UK departure from the EU, without the need for difficult concessions or compromise on the part of the UK. The course of events that followed, and the arrangement eventually arrived at to enable Brexit, suggest that there was more substance to ‘problems around the Irish border’ than his earlier assertion allowed. Indeed (and given the exclusion of the option of revocation of Brexit) there was no solution entirely satisfactory to any of the parties on offer, though the greatest difficulties were always likely to befall the UK. An issue that Johnson previously sought to dismiss may yet cause substantial difficulties for him and his government, as well as the UK and wider world.

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