How flexible can the EU really be now?
The BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler posted an interesting thread on Twitter on the possibility of EU concessions when and if British MPs finally reach a consensus in Parliament.
In case you missed it:
While there is widespread disagreement about whether the EU will blink or not over Brexit (spoiler alert: the bloc is more flexible than it wants to indicate right now), it’s arguably more useful to think what kind of eventual ‘concessions’ we might be talking about from the EU.
It’s true the EU has a history of blinking in the last moment BUT only in its own interest. In the Greek debt crisis, the bloc chose to keep Greece in the eurozone in order (leaders thought) to better protect the whole currency.
When I say the EU will be more flexible than it seems right now, I don’t mean ditching the backstop. EU leaders want to protect the single market. They earn more from it than from trade with the UK alone. Protecting the border on the island of Ireland means protecting the Single Market as well as the Northern Ireland peace process.
And don’t think the border issue goes away even if a Brexit deal is struck. The EU will want to ensure the Single Market and the peace process (the UK government is also signed up to the latter) are protected on the island of Ireland when it comes to a future EU-UK trade deal too.
All that said, the EU is prepared to be more accommodating than it has felt it needs, or should be now in order to get a deal. Exactly how accommodating the EU leaders can be - the only ones who can change the Brexit deal - rather than Jean-Claude Juncker or Donald Tusk.
Right now, they see the UK parliament in turmoil and believe there is no point offering ‘concessions’ until a majority of MPs unite around, a) a concrete proposal that b) is acceptable to the EU, i.e. when the change requested is less harmful to the EU than the bloc facing a no-deal Brexit.
If this sound ‘nebulous’ (favourite Brussels word these Brexit days!) that’s because it is. The EU will cede as little as it possibly can in order to get a deal. Going through motions of making political declaration ‘more’ legally binding, granting Article 50 extention, drafting legally binding backstop assurances, or backstop ‘clarifications’, or fixed reviewal times on the backstop... All of this is less costly to the EU than a no-deal Brexit.
Of course, the EU would prefer to change nothing at all but if - then it wants change to come once - not have the PM asking every week for something else. That’s why in Brussels the bet is that this is going down to the wire (unless extension granted before).
It’s also why the EU thinks there’s a real chance of an ‘accidental no-deal’ that both the EU and the PM want to avoid, but if it’s all last minute and neither side will bend as far as the other needs/wants/insists is necessary...
The above text was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into text-only by PMP Magazine. It is unredacted. It may have been minorly edited to remove abbreviations and spelling mistakes in order to be more readable. The author of the tweets wrote in a personal capacity. The tweets are public. (Source: Twitter) —
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(This is an original piece, first published by the PMP Magazine.)
(Cover: Pixabay. The European Parliament.)