Europe and the EU


Brexit: state of play

08 May 2018 - 13:11
Source: European Council President/flickr

This Alert was presented as a position paper for the Committee on European Affairs of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands on 18 April 2018

The Brexit negotiations have entered their second year. Barely twelve months remain before the United Kingdom will depart from the European Union. The British government wants to leave the single market and the Customs Union and escape the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK’s red lines are clear and are leading the negotiations towards a free-trade agreement of the kind the EU has with Canada, possibly with a number of additional elements (also known as a ‘Canada-plus’ deal).

Despite the results achieved so far – agreements on ‘Phase 1’ withdrawal issues and a transition period after March 2019 – the prospects for reaching a fnal agreement remain uncertain. This uncertainty is linked mainly to domestic political conditions in the UK.

Discussions between the EU and the UK on the future relationship started this week. In this Alert on Brexit author Rem Korteweg presents five issues that will dominate negotiations in the months ahead:

  • The British want special treatment, but the EU27 are reluctant;
  • No solution for the Irish border (yet);
  • The British parliament is split over the Brexit agreement;
  • The transition agreement will (probably) not be long enough;
  • A level playing field is crucial.

A crisis in British politics cannot be ruled out between now and March 2019. And so the possibility of a no-deal (cliff-edge) scenario remains. Also, the EU27 must guard against overconfidence. To make a deal possible, some believe that Theresa May will ultimately give way on her earlier red lines. After all, she has done so on several occasions in the past year. The deadline is approaching and Prime Minister May will soon have to make stark choices. But uncertainty, particularly with regard to British politics, means that when it comes to the Brexit talks past results are no guarantee for the future.