Rethinking Europe

Brexit “Deal”: Not Even the End of the Beginning for UK and EU

Years and years of negotiations about the future UK-EU relations lie ahead — if the ambitions are ever to be set into an international treaty.

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Takeaways


  • London and Brussels are already contradicting each other about what the withdrawal agreement means.
  • Start counting. Not the number of words in the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement, but the number of MPs who will vote Yay or Nay.
  • Years of negotiations about the future UK-EU relations lie ahead -- if the ambitions are ever to be set into an international treaty.

In the UK, the first rule of politics now kicks in: Start counting. Not the number of words in the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement or the 7-page political declaration, but the number of MPs who will vote Yay or Nay.

Grave contradictions already

Already London and Brussels are contradicting each other. Michel Barnier says that EU citizens can live, work, retire in the UK, with British expats having the same rights on the continent. Meanwhile, in London, defenders of the deal say it means the end of freedom of movement.

For the EU27, the four freedoms of movement of capital, goods, services and people are indivisible. If British business and politicians insist they can start discriminating against EU citizens by imposing work and residence permits, then the claims by Mrs. May that there will be full access for firms in Britain to sell into Europe will simply implode.

Even under the best of circumstances, these glaring contradictions translate into years and years of negotiations — if the ambitions listed about the future UK-EU relations are ever to be set into an international treaty.

What lies ahead is a veritable “Brex-ternity” of talks, rows and political revolts in the UK, as well as demands from producer and exporting lobbies in the EU27 countries. The resulting strife will create headlines well into the 2020s.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit No Exit: Why Britain Won’t Leave Europe.” [London]. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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