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The EU/Brexit Poker Play: Ten Theses

What is really at stake for both the UK and the EU in the forthcoming negotiations over Brexit.

October 5, 2016

What is really at stake for both the UK and the EU in the forthcoming negotiations over Brexit.

The speech by Theresa May at the Conservative party conference has brought some welcome clarifications.

However, it is just as important to focus on the intervention of Boris Johnson, UK Foreign Secretary. He continues to proclaim the vast opportunities opening up for Britain.

According to him, these opportunities will restore UK to its former status of “world power” and as the foremost champion of global free trade, a role reminiscent of its glorious past!

Here are my ten theses on the current state of play between the UK and the EU:

  1. It is hard to see how the strategy advocated by Boris Johnson has the slightest chance of prevailing in today’s environment. Today, the benefits of globalization are being challenged in the United States, continental Europe and even in England.

    Quite the contrary, it is likely to complicate trade negotiations either between the EU and the UK or between the latter and the rest of the world.

  2. International trade is the blood stream that irrigates the world economy. The ever increasing interdependence of the world community makes it necessary to regulate trade, rather than to obstruct it.

  3. Agreements between major trading blocs are highly desirable (NAFTA, the Single Market, China, Mercosur, India). However, the parties to any trade deal must have sufficiently homogeneous characteristics to avoid the domination of the weak by the strong. Such an imbalance only encourages counterproductive protectionism.

  4. Whatever the importance of Britain, that time is long gone when it carried enough weight to impose its views on their larger counterparts.

  5. As Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has stated, the EU must defend its interests, speaking with one voice.

  6. Whatever Boris Johnson may believe, the EU 27 (+ EEA members) will always choose to promote exchanges within the borders of their own “common market” (including in related areas such as freedom of movement) rather than privilege relations with the UK.

  7. Not unlike the case in the United States, this relegates the importance of an agreement with the UK to the proverbial “back of the queue.”

  8. The choice of triggering Article 50 by the end of March, as Theresa May has announced, was made deliberately. This point in time was picked in order to increase the ability of the English to divide the EU 27 next year.

  9. After all, France and the Netherlands, followed by Germany will be in the midst of their respective national election campaigns. At such a time, domestic issues tend to dominate the political debate.

  10. Pressure exerted by extremist parties, as well as a sluggish economic environment, will lead to concessions. Even though these concessions may turn out to be incompatible with the necessary further integration of the EU and lead to its ultimate collapse. No EU means no need for Brexit!

  11. Make no mistake about it: What is really at stake in the poker game that is unfolding before our eyes in the aftermath of Brexit is a very stark choice – between dismembering the United Kingdom or dismembering the European Union.


Johnson claims that UK will be restored to its status of "world power" and champion of global free trade.

That time is long gone when Britain carried enough weight to impose its views on their larger counterparts.

The EU 27 will promote exchanges within their own "common market" rather than privilege relations with the UK.