Brexit Britain from Abroad: Negotiations Get Off to a Rocky Start

Britain Has No Cards

Britain had the best free trade agreement available in Europe - membership of a market eight times Britain's size without having to accept its common currency and the closer union the euro will need if it is to survive.

Britain's voters, or half of them, have decided that deal was not worth the price of accepting free movement of EU citizens and compliance with some irritating rules they felt impinged on Britain's sovereignty. Now their Government wants to conclude a new trade agreement at the same time as its exit terms are agreed. That looks impossible, even if the EU is interested.

Exit terms involve negotiations with Brussels alone, a trade agreement would need to be ratified by all 27 remaining members. Even the easiest trade agreements take many more years than the two on which the clock is now ticking for Britain's exit. Trade negotiations with multiple countries proceed at the pace of the most reluctant participant on the most contentious of issues. That is why they can take a decade or more to conclude, if they succeed at all.

That is the scale of the damage done by voters last year. It is hard to see these negotiations salvaging very much.

Editorial, New Zealand Herald


The latest developments leave no doubt as to the challenges ahead, but we always knew Brexit was going to be a nightmare. That is why we voted overwhelmingly for Remain.

That Spain has a veto over our future relationship with the EU is not news. The future relationship between the UK and the EU – unlike the withdrawal agreement – has to be agreed by unanimity of the 27. Spain always had a veto, as does every remaining member of the EU.

What is new, however, is the clear indication that the EU has accepted Spain’s argument that Gibraltar should be singled out for separate treatment.

Brian Reyes, The Gibraltar Chronicle

No Divorce is Good

One great advantage of Brexit in the future will be not having to listen to the insults of the British populist demagogue Nigel Farage, who said that the EU is a mafia - or, after he was reprimanded by [president of the Chamber, Antonio] Tajani, gangsters - to the applause of his coreligionists and a handful of European anti-communists.

Farage’s allusion was framed in the debate on the bill to be paid by London and amongst the fury caused by the EU's clear support for Spain over Gibraltar - and its right of veto over any agreement reached. Weber made it clear: "Spain will not have to defend itself against London." Italian socialist Gianni Pittella captivated the chamber when she said: "We will not consent to a megaparadise tax at the doors of the EU." Ramón Jáuregui had to remember the reality: "We can not admit that there is a colony in Europe in the 21st century." But not everyone heard: with irritation of the populist nationalists clear, María Terricabras, of Esquerra Republicana, expressed his solidarity in English.

From Strasbourg and from the European Parliament, the omen is confirmed: no divorce is good. And [head of the EPP] Manfred Weber's question seems pertinent: "Are we right in the head?"

José Manuel Calvo Roy, El País

Exit from Brexit?

The European Parliament is sending a very clear message to London: Before its withdrawal from the EU, Britain has to pay its bills and, ultimately, it cannot be given any deal that would put the United Kingdom in an advantageous situation compared to other EU member states. Otherwise parliament will block an exit treaty, according to a resolution passed Wednesday by a large majority.

But the resolution also includes a passage that has so far gained little public attention. It limits the ability of the British to withdraw their Article 50 notification that they intend to exit from the EU. "A revocation of notification," the passage reads, "needs to be subject to conditions set by all EU-27."

There are concerns in the European Parliament that the Brits could withdraw their notification only to turn around and resubmit it in order to stretch the extremely tight two-year negotiating deadline for the country's departure from the EU.

Markus Becker, De Spiegel

Towards Little England

Small countries on the periphery of the EU, such as Norway and Switzerland, have learned that benefiting from EU integration requires limiting the scope for independent domestic policymaking.

Given these countries’ experience, the Brexiteers should rein in their expectations for how much control they can realistically “take back”.

May’s government has made various announcements indicating the types of post-Brexit policy changes it will pursue.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, for example, has talked about a low-tax, light-regulation model.

But this model’s success in city-state settings such as Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai is no guarantee that it will work for a G-20 economy.

Meanwhile, May has suggested that the UK will, once again, embrace industrial policy, though it remains unclear what she means by this.

The UK has always had a high degree of autonomy to shape its own economic strategy, but Brexit will probably force policymakers to craft a comprehensive agenda that makes the country’s priorities explicit.

As they do, they should learn from successful small economies.

Michael O’Sullivan and David Skilling, The Jordan Times

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