This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

Latest

Gaps to a new deal

The eerie quiet of negotiators, um, negotiating means we’ve seen very little of the Future Relationship process of late: everyone’s too busy trying to work up texts and compromises to brief outsiders. Which makes it a good time to consider an aspect of the ratification problem that’s not been much seen so far: what happens if there’s a deal, but ratification can’t be finished by the end of 31 December? So far, we’ve tended to think about things as a case of there being a deal or not and then sticking to that as a binary. But clearly, this isn’t the case: as we know, a collapse of the Future Relationship process still leaves the door open to future efforts to address each sides’ interests. And it’s also true that if the current talks do produce a treaty that each side wants to ratify, then failure to do so by the end of the year doesn’t kill it. This is because while the transition period – with the UK following all elements of EU membership, bar representation and voting – runs until New Year’s Eve, there is no such time limit on the negotiating mandate of either side. Yes, both are committed to ‘best efforts’ to hit the deadline, for a seamless jump from one arrangement to another, but as we know from earlier discussions about this, it was both practically and legally impossible to make that an obligation. So the possibility of a gap exists. Broadly speaking, we could see this gap in one of two variants. The first is the ‘half a mo’ version, where ratification is underway, but someone just runs out of time to complete their processes (the IfG have a good run-down on this): if we have to go down a route of EU27 national ratifications, this is a distinct possibility, even if Christmas closures do leave some margin for extra sitting days for legislatures (I leave you to ponder how sympathetic parliamentarians might feel to that, especially given everything else on their plate). In this scenario, the gap is likely to be small and everyone’s pretty obviously on board with the programme. This points to a short window when no arrangement would be in legal effect, but the rapid arrival of the new deal would give much leeway to let everyone neglect to enforce the full weight of a no-deal scenario. Given that there’s been much discussion in EU circles about progressive introduction of controls post-January in the latter scenario, this could be an extension of that principle, knowing that things would be on a firmer footing shortly. In brief, here we might see a short period of soft-pedalling, which itself might be used as a way of demonstrating good faith. Which is also why we might think it less likely than the second variant of the gap: the ‘err, hang on chaps’ model. Precisely because the first version is grounded in some genuine procedural problem, we have to imagine that both sides would know this was coming and would seek to avoid it at all: better to have no gap than even a small one, especially if we’re trying to rebuild trust. However, as we’ll recall from 2018-20, ratification is not only about your relationship with the other negotiating party, but also your domestic constituency. To take the obvious case, will Number 10 be able to carry the backbenches on a wave of a ‘world-beating’ deal, at speed and without rebellion? Particularly given that some of the scales might have fallen from their eyes now that they’ve had time to consider whether the Withdrawal Agreement was actually what they thought/said it was? One consequence of that saga is that the EU will be pushing for more explicit language about dispute settlement and governance, which even the less assiduous readers of treaty texts might pick up on. And the sailing might be no easier on the EU side, especially if the concessions made fall too obviously on any one member state (e.g. France and fisheries): clear problems for one might be enough to put the brake on and to send Barnier back to try again. Again, the calculation here might be that the UK needs this more than the EU, so the former will have to cave in. However it goes, big problems on any side are liable to mean that we’re back into that territory of renegotiation, and that would be occurring through the end of transition. Here it would be much harder to sell the gap as brief or underpinned by rebuilding trust, which in turn makes it harder to keep everyone on board. Indeed, if it turns out that the world doesn’t fall apart on 1 January, some in the UK might decide that it’s actually not so bad after all and pack it in (even though that would be partly because of that progressive re-introduction of controls mentioned earlier). At the very least, this kind of gap would be one that contained much more potential to collapse the process of negotiation, and to see the full effects of no-deal occur. Even if a deal could be patched up and pushed through, the experience would do little to improve the quality of the relationship between the EU and UK. All of which might be a long way to say that if you want a deal, you also should really not want a gap. COMMENT

Recent Articles

It’s all just words

Published on by and | No Comments

Lots of people have lots of problems with the Maastricht Treaty, and I’m not one to change that. Instead I’ll throw another issue onto the pile: its lopsidedness. If you’ve read the text – and really, you should have – you’ll notice that there’s a huge difference between the sections relating to the first pillar […]

Same old, same old

Published on by and | No Comments

I find I’m not writing all that much these days about Brexit, either on blogs or on Twitter. It’s not because there’s nothing happening, but rather that all the stuff isn’t amounting to much. Let me give you an example. On my daily walk today, I remembered I’d producing something a while back about why […]

Sauce for the goose?

Published on by and | No Comments

Yesterday saw Michael Gove and David Frost, the UK leads for the current negotiations with the EU, give evidence to Parliamentary committees. They were very upbeat about it all, pointing to the increasing chances of a deal and sounding conciliatory about compromises on state aid, even as they acknowledged the continuing problems elsewhere. I noted […]

Pacta sunt servanda: a guide

Published on by | No Comments

Given all the recent interest in breaking treaties, I thought it’d be useful to provide you with a quick guide to what is generally accepted to be the international framework for this: pacta sunt servanda. A short Twitter thread puts some words to it, and a PDF version is available here.

Bus-crashing as a negotiation technique

Published on by and | Comments Off on Bus-crashing as a negotiation technique

As I’ve sat down to write this, I’ve just reminded myself that I said only a short time ago that a leading indicator of heading to an agreement on the Future Relationship would be a de-escalation of the rhetoric. Make of that what you will, both in regard to Brexit and to me. This past […]

Another summer of Brexit

Published on by and | Comments Off on Another summer of Brexit

As we roll back round that time of year when schools briefly re-open and we all head back to the office [sic], it’s worth considering the progress made on the Future Relationship talks. Recall that after the June decision that no extension to the transition period would be sought, the UK government pressed for – […]

What do we talk about when we talk about Brexit?

Published on by and | Comments Off on What do we talk about when we talk about Brexit?

All that summer rest finally gave me the impetus to put together this little chart the other day. It’s a simple breakdown of the time allocated to the 11 headings of the Future Relationship negotiating rounds, including this week’s 7th. Weightings are based on a negotiating block (usually a half-day), with some joint sessions (e.g. […]

Why the UK carries much more of the adjustment costs of Brexit than the EU

Published on by and | Comments Off on Why the UK carries much more of the adjustment costs of Brexit than the EU

Last week, almost as an aside to another conversation on Twitter, I noted that the UK was always going to have a much more difficult time of it all with Brexit than the EU because it (the UK) has to build and rebuild a huge pile of government functionality, while the EU just keeps what […]

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Meta

  • UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.