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June 29, 2018

On the EU's red lines in the Brexit negotiations

In the past we took issue with the rather lofty views on a Brexit reversal by Jean-Claude Piris, formerly head of the Council’s legal service. But this is a solid analysis of the current state of play in the Brexit negotiations. He is saying that the idea of a partial customs union for goods only is not going to happen. 

Such a solution might be justified for a small territory like Northern Ireland, but cannot be used as a general exception for an entire country. But what really clinches the argument is the UK’s request for single market access, based on voluntarily compliance with EU standards. 

"This hope is based on a misunderstanding of what the SM is. A third state cannot get partial access to the SM under the same conditions as EU or EEA states without being bound by the same constraints. This is not because of bad will on the EU’s part. The EU has no choice but to protect its major success, which binds together all its members: the homogeneity, credibility and legal security of its SM. The European Council will be united in refusing to put the SM’s credibility in jeopardy."

He also makes a point that we have been making: that the EU would not be able to accept freedom of movement for goods and capital but not for people. The four freedoms come as a package, something that seems basically incomprehensible to many commentators in the UK. Piris notes that exactly the same arguments would also apply to a more limited agreement relating to goods only. 

This leaves only a Canada-style trade agreement, with no customs union or single market membership, but with a tariff-free customs arrangement and a joint dispute-settlement procedure. The question is where this will leave Northern Ireland. 

Piris does not answer the question directly, but his solution would imply that there would have to be a border between Northern Ireland and the UK.

So, something will have to give here. Piris does not solve the problem, he merely clarifies the EU’s red lines. This is useful, and explains why close observers of the process are becoming increasingly pessimistic.

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June 29, 2018

As bad as Nafta

We saw a comment from a well-known, and normally level-headed, German journalist who tweeted yesterday that Nato will not survive eight years of Donald Trump. He was responding to an article about what Trump said in a private conversation during the disastrous G7 summit in Quebec. In reference to the Nato summit in July he is reported as saying, according to the notes of one of the leaders who was present:

"It will be an interesting summit. Nato is as bad as Nafta. It's much too costly for the US."

This was part of a wider speech passage on Germany not paying its fair share of defence spending, with the added comment that the US was getting ripped off. The author of the article spoke to diplomats, who are despondent that Trump is picking on German defence spending rather than celebrating the increase in the defence spending of other countries.

We are wondering why Nato countries are not putting more pressure on Germany to increase defence spending. Germany is clearly not an innocent victim in this. A renewed commitment to increase defence spending to 2% by 2024, with a timetable of how to get there, would clearly defuse the situation.

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  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 29, 2019
  • No-deal Brexit is no longer just a scenario
  • No German warships to the Strait of Hormuz
  • July 01, 2019
  • The questions we will be asking tomorrow
  • What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?
  • June 03, 2019
  • Reinventing the French right without Wauquiez
  • Tory leadership election is between feasible and unfeasible Brexit options
  • May 10, 2019
  • Target2 debate raises legitimate questions with unsatisfactory answers
  • No more German questions please
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • March 25, 2019
  • An object lesson in realpolitik
  • On the probability of a no-deal Brexit
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • February 11, 2019
  • SPD dumps Hartz IV
  • Macron's revival
  • January 23, 2019
  • The importance of the Aachen Treaty
  • The demise of small Greek parties over Macedonia
  • A speed limit on autobahns - what is the world coming coming to?
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 17, 2018
  • A second referendum is no closer today than last Friday
  • Philippe expects 3.2% deficit next year
  • November 29, 2018
  • There are still a few options left for May
  • Berlin and Paris offer to mediate after Azov Sea incident
  • November 13, 2018
  • Peak Salvini?
  • Protest uberisation
  • October 29, 2018
  • Why the EEA is no longer a Brexit option
  • Behold the rising superpower: post-catholic Ireland’s European miracle
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • September 07, 2018
  • Greece to expand golden visa business
  • Debunking the Brexit options, Sherlock Holmes-style
  • August 29, 2018
  • Germany considers financial assistance to Turkey
  • Why right-wing parties are setting the agenda everywhere
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 31, 2018
  • Much ado about nothing - French version
  • Eurozone reform: Purple bonds
  • July 24, 2018
  • A constitutional referendum in Poland?
  • On the future of the euro
  • July 18, 2018
  • Don’t hold your breath about the EU-Japan trade deal
  • July 13, 2018
  • Can Spain's PP turn eurosceptic over Catalonia?
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • July 04, 2018
  • Trump to confront Merkel head-on over Nato
  • European choices in response to Trump
  • On the paradox of disembarkation centres
  • July 02, 2018
  • Is Trump out to destroy both Nato and the EU?
  • Salvini’s empire
  • Remembrance as a way forward?