Henrik Enderlein Profile picture
Mar 29, 2018 18 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1/ Thread: Here are my 12 thoughts on #Brexit. We are at half-time in Art50 process. Departure UK from EU now exactly 12m away. Right moment to take stock and list a few backward- and forward-looking thoughts. (You can also read the full blog-post here: delorsinstitut.de/en/all-publica…)
#1: When the UK voted leave, many said the EU would be weakened. Today it is clear that the contrary is true: it’s the UK not the EU that has been weakened by Brexit.
#2a Whatever people say, it would have been possible for Britain to change its mind about Brexit. Many political decisions, even after referenda, have been reversed in many countries.
#2b What is striking in the Brexit case is that even the many remainers in the UK (especially those in government) have adopted a peculiar political stance mixing fatalism with short-sighted national pride. Why can’t a nation say it has been wrong?
#3a There has been a major time inconsistency in UK’s political system since the referendum. Theresa May has been fighting for her short-term political survival from the day she was appointed Prime Minister. This could be the reason why she has focused so much on tactical moves.
#3b For UK citizens, a government thinking clearly and strategically about which Brexit-type responded best to citizens’ concerns and about the long-term economic consequences triggered by this decision would have been much better.
#4a Too little focus on Cameron and his share of responsibility in debate about leave-vote. Cameron had been playing with eurosceptic fire for far too long. Idea to call a referendum was politically foolish, given uncertainties about what a Brexit decision would imply.
#4b We will never know which type of Brexit British people actually voted for. The complexities that have become apparent since June 2016 show clearly that this was not a matter for a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.
#5 Art50 process has been so difficult because of key misunderstanding in UK that this is a negotiation on equal footing, with give-and-takes from both. It is not. As Pascal Lamy once put it: it’s a process of limiting damage for both. And damage is clearly bigger on the UK side.
#6 The EU has shown remarkable unity so far. People said UK would manage to divide EU. They were wrong. @MichelBarnier + team have done an excellent job. His negotiation strategy much clearer. And so far, the UK had to eventually align with EU positions on basically all points
#7 In the UK, the opportunity costs of focusing so much on Brexit will be very high. Which country can afford concentrating the largest part of its political and administrative capacities on a single policy issue for 3 years (and probably beyond)?
#8 Seperation phase of 2y too short given complex negotiations involved in future relationship. All that can be done is divorce settlement + transition. This means UK will have to leave the EU with almost no certainty about type of long-term economic relation between UK + EU.
#9a There is scope for a bespoke deal, but complexities are high (think Ireland, think trade with 3rd countries, think ECJ). EU+UK should define new category of econ partnership that would be more than free-trade agreement with Canada, but less than full single-market membership.
#9b Problematic: We can define bespoke deal in abstract terms, but not fill it with substance. Details matter. Less complex trade deals took around 3-5y from start of formal negotiations to adoption. Any EU-UK trade deal before 2021 is thus highly ambitious, to say the least.
#10. Norway-style transition could stay for a long time. This BRINO scenario (‘Brexit-In-Name-Only’) would be economically rational for UK. The Politics are difficult. But political assessment can change quickly when result for UK of trade discussion will appear in full clarity.
#11a The Brexit process shows that there is a fundamental economic contradiction in the populist promise to “take back control”. Disconnecting an economy from its main trading partners implies abandoning degrees of freedom, not increasing them.
#11b European integration is a meaningful and largely successful attempt to build a political bridge between the nation state and economic globalization. Participation in the EU means more political control, not less.
#12 Things would be so much easier if Britain stayed. Perhaps there is a reason scrambled eggs never got unscrambled. Even if it was possible, it is too complex. And the ultimate utility is low. /END

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