We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

July 30, 2018

Brexit midsummer madness

Most of the Brexit media coverage - and virtually everything you read on Twitter - falls into the category of agitated noise. The lack of real news amplifies it, as evidence by the absurd discussion about food shortages. The hardline Brexiteers are very upset that they don’t get their hard Brexit. And the hardline Remainers are also very upset because they do not have the votes to stop any of it. Theresa May, meanwhile, steers a course towards a gradual softening in the position - a course we believe will ultimately prevail. The distance between her white paper and the EU’s preferred option of a customs union is still formidable, but not unbridgeable. 

The ball is now in the court of the EU, or specifically the European Council. If they reject Theresa May’s plan with the same clarity as Michel Barnier did last week, we are indeed headed for a hard Brexit until, of course, the EU begins to consider the implications a hard Brexit would have for Ireland and the EU’s own customs border.

There are more and more people on the Remain side of the debate in the UK who are urging the EU to tread with caution. After the paper by Pisani-Ferry, Rottgen et al we discussed last week, we noted a strong commentary by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian on Friday, who warns against the EU’s temptation to impose a humiliating divorce deal. Garton-Ash draws the comparisons with post-Versailles Germany. He says the image of a Weimar Britain may be exaggerated. There is no Hitler on the horizon, and no likelihood of mass unemployment. But as evidenced by the improbable rise of the far-right parties in Europe, it would be a mistake to take benign outcomes for granted. It will require wisdom on both sides of the Channel to avoid the danger of a Weimar Britain. Garton-Ash says May’s white paper has its faults, but it is a step towards pragmatic realism. Everybody in the UK government knows that the UK will have to make further compromises. But he notes that the other 27 EU leaders did not have a Brexit discussion among each other since the spring of 2017. We agree with Garton-Ash’s observations that the unrelenting support by pro-Europeans in the UK in favour of the EU's position is crumbling. 

Wolfgang Munchau and Anand Menon both argue why it is wrong for Remainers to bet on a second referendum. Munchau argues that there are only a few scenarios in which the EU is prepared to extent the Article 50 deadline. If it reaches a withdrawal agreement with May, the baseline scenario, the EU will not extend the deadline, except perhaps for a few weeks if the ratification process were to go on for a little while longer. With prolongation there can be no second referendum. Munchau argues the only sensible second referendum question would be for the electorate to accept or reject the withdrawal deal - there are circumstances under which the government itself would prefer such a referendum. Once you include the EU’s own incentives, and especially the 2019 European elections, there is no space for a second referendum.

Menon makes the point that a second referendum - assuming it is another in-or-out vote - would not fix the fundamental flaw of the first referendum: the future relationship with the EU would not be any clearer. A second referendum would be massively divisive. But, perhaps most important of all, it would not deliver a solution:

"...the irony is that, on this at least, our representatives are indeed representative of the British people. Neither in Westminster nor among the public at large can a majority be found for any one Brexit outcome."

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • January 29, 2019
  • What comes after plan B fails? Plan C, of course. C for cliff-edge
  • Gilets jaunes, how to structure a movement in free flow?
  • European Court of Auditors criticises Juncker’s investment fund
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • March 27, 2017
  • Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
  • Did Trump present Merkel with a bill for Nato?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • November 13, 2018
  • Peak Salvini?
  • Protest uberisation
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • February 28, 2017
  • Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?
  • Something we just don’t understand
  • Solve the problem
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • 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
  • November 09, 2017
  • From street protests to road closures
  • What Russia wants
  • January 31, 2017
  • Project fear against Italexit
  • On how not to frustrate Brexit
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • September 15, 2017
  • Juncker dragged into the Catalan fray
  • What to say in Florence
  • How to fill the gap left by the British MEPs
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 26, 2019
  • How Brexit has given rise to different perceptions of reality
  • The EP, not Madrid, will boost Spanish clout
  • How realistic is a Gaullist Europe?
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • February 07, 2018
  • A short note on bitcoin
  • July 04, 2017
  • On the CDU’s programme
  • Macron defines his presidential style
  • Why do we criticise modern macro?
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • October 02, 2018
  • Whatever it takes - diesel version
  • Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?
  • April 06, 2018
  • Schleswig Holstein collapses Spain's strategy against Catalan separatism
  • On the implausibility of conspiracy theories in the Skripal case
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • May 22, 2018
  • A €60bn ESM credit line - is this what they call a backstop?
  • Will Nato survive Trump?
  • Northern Ireland's Brexit disillusion
  • Would Corbyn become prime minister if he accepted the single market?
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 24, 2016
  • Towards a hard Brexit
  • Is there a pact of Ventotene?
  • La rentrée
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 12, 2019
  • EU veers into crisis over von der Leyen's confirmation
  • A short note on long ambitions
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • May 23, 2019
  • ...twere well it were done quickly
  • The Tsipras-Mitsotakis duel dominates EP campaign in Greece
  • April 30, 2019
  • Labour's big day
  • Spain now turns to its next elections
  • On the hypocrisy of the German debt debate
  • April 08, 2019
  • Welcome to the new Brexit grand coalition
  • Waiting for Macron's next move
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • February 25, 2019
  • Deal versus short delay
  • The astonishing weakness of Five Star
  • The real threat is from the left not the right
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • January 20, 2019
  • Groundhog Britain
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 10, 2018
  • ECJ says UK free to revoke Article 50, even inside extension period
  • A turning point in Macron's presidency
  • China has added Portugal to the list of its key EU partners
  • Belgium's coalition implodes over Marrakesh pact
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • November 12, 2018
  • Does Macron really believe in his own 2019 battle plan?
  • A throwaway commentary about a throwaway comment
  • 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 05, 2018
  • What to make of the Anglo-Irish approximation on the backstop?
  • Macron's launches charm offensive but gives offence nevertheless
  • Moscovici all but breaks with his socialist party
  • September 26, 2018
  • EU doubling down on internal UK customs border
  • Can Valls replay Macron in Barcelona?
  • September 17, 2018
  • About the new partnership between Russia and China
  • EU ponders Irish backstop protocol to help May
  • September 10, 2018
  • Steadfast Juppé stays true to embattled Macron
  • Sweden’s Democrats and Germany’s AfD: they don’t win elections, but they set the political agenda
  • Is Boris going to challenge Theresa May?
  • September 03, 2018
  • Is the AfD an extremist party? Of course it is. Why do you ask?
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • 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
  • August 03, 2018
  • What we think about reforming the eurozone
  • August 01, 2018
  • EU softening stance on Brexit
  • July 31, 2018
  • Much ado about nothing - French version
  • Eurozone reform: Purple bonds
  • July 30, 2018
  • Brexit midsummer madness