The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Why we must remain steadfast in our Brexit negotiations

Today Great Britain stands at a crossroads; it is here where we must decide whether we will stand strong and boldly go forward or whether we will cower before a group of unelected bureaucrats thrust out from power in their home countries. Our Brexit negotiations have featured heavily in the news recently over the Government's supposed plan to stay ...
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Brexit Compared: Estonia regains independence and USSR falls

Brexit Compared: Estonia regains independence and USSR falls
Tuesday 20th March 2018, from 1pm - 3pm How the Brexit negotiations should be handled. The man who delivered the Estonian Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1991 to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Head of the Soviet Union, advises the UK on Brexit.  Location: Committee Room 20 The House of Commons Westminster London SW1A 0AA (via the Cromwell En...
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Bad faith in Brussels: A warning to the UK’s Brexit negotiators

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator for Brexit.Photograph: DG EMPL, Flickr

British Prime Minister Theresa May outlined her government’s vision for Brexit in a speech delivered in Florence on September 22. In a bid to breathe new life into ongoing UK-EU negotiations, she presented proposals regarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, the length of a “transition period” after 2019, and the sum Britain might pay during that period. Rather than inspiring counterproposals or constructive criticism from EU leaders, May’s speech generated little more than the same refrain repeated from Brussels since negotiations began: that more “clarity” was needed, and that “sufficient progress” would have to be made before talks could advance. This lacklustre, somewhat apathetic EU position does not look like the result of sincere consideration of May’s proposals, or a constructive attitude towards the talks. Rather, it looks a lot more like a deliberate tactic to either prevent Brexit, or punish Britain.

Some might find this approach perplexing. After all, is it not in both parties’ interests to negotiate a mutually-beneficial outcome? Not necessarily…

To better understand Brussels’ foot-dragging in Brexit talks, it helps to understand the incentives driving it. First and foremost, the EU is a political union. Economic, social, or environmental considerations may all have contributed to the appeal of ever-closer union, but they remain secondary to the very political objective of federal statehood. Indeed, from the days of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman at the dawn of European integration, to more the more recent mandates of José Manuel Barroso, Viviane Reding, or Guy Verhofstadt, the goal of a pan-European nation state is no secret.

Grasping that European statehood is the EU’s ultimate objective is essential for the UK government’s Brexit Secretary David Davis and his team of negotiators as they engage with their counterparts. It means that, no matter how amenable the UK is to facilitating trade or subsidizing the EU’s budget, the bottom line in Brussels remains the preservation of their political project. The win-win economic gains desired by the UK are not necessarily desired by the EU, for whom a successful Britain would signal there is no longer any economic appeal to remaining in the bloc. A strong UK economy poses an existential threat to European integration.

This explains why trade negotiations have not even begun, despite both parties already sharing near-identical norms and regulations. It is also why the EU seems in no rush to maintain access to the UK’s large consumer market, with Britons buying more from the EU than the other way around. In order to preserve the union, the EU’s only options are to ensure the UK remains inside, or fails outside.

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Brexit under threat

The Union Jack flies over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.Photograph: Rian (Ree) Saunders, Flickr

With Article 50 triggered and Brexit negotiations well underway, the UK government looks like it’s carrying out the instructions it received from 17.4 million voters last summer. At best, Britain and the continent will establish a mutually advantageous trade relationship; at worst, the UK and EU will revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, including minor tariffs on the exchange of goods and services. In either case, it seems, the UK will regain control over its finances, its borders, and its laws –all of which are necessary to fulfill the mandate given by voters.

Nevertheless, a growing threat hangs over Brexit Britain.

In hopes of consolidating power, Prime Minister Theresa May called an election in June. Rather than expand her mandate with a comfortable majority in Parliament, May’s Conservatives lost their majority, necessitating the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist MPs to govern.

Emboldened by the election result, opposition parties have redoubled efforts to undermine the government’s position in Brexit negotiations. By seeking guarantees that single market access is maintained at all costs, or that, if by March 2019 (the date by which the UK has notified the EU it will leave) negotiations have not born fruit Britain’s current relationship with the EU should be maintained, MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and even some Conservatives are undermining the primary objective of last year’s referendum: to leave the EU.

Beyond Westminster, a growing number of voices have added themselves to the anti-Brexit bandwagon.

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The deals that may be worse than no deal

How a compromise agreement may keep Britain subject to aspects of the EU.

2nd June 2017

Introduction

Here we answer your questions on the Article 50 UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement.

 

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