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

July 08, 2020

Maybe they are not negotiating after all?

Philippe Lamberts MEP shared an interesting snippet of information about the state of the Brexit negotiations. Don't take it for granted that we are in a final stretch. While it appears that negotiations are going on, this is pure illusion. The British are not negotiating, he said. This corroborates our take last week. Lamberts confirmed that these talks did not just end a day early. They actually broke down. 

Lamberts was a member of the Brexit steering group in the European Parliament, which accompanied the first part of the Brexit negotiations. We think he may have first-hand knowledge of the state of the current negotiations. In an interview, he said the negotiations were only for show, to give the appearance that something is happening when it is not. And he said the UK government was not really interested in a deal.

As ever, we find it difficult to know what it is going on inside peoples' heads. But revealed preference tell us that Johnson is a late-deadline negotiator and a gambler, which is why it was essential for him to let the July extension deadline pass. We always took that pledge seriously. The ability to extend, ever-present in EU law, did not really work for the Tories before. We think that Theresa May would still be prime minister if she had negotiated a withdrawal agreement under a binding no-extension commitment. 

The fact that this month's negotiations are stuck should therefore not be surprising in itself. We all know what the contours of a successful deal will be: no regulatory alignment, unilateral remedies as the ultimate dispute settlement mechanism; respect for the principle of a level-playing field but with no extra-territorial judicial reach; fish quotas; and some minimal extras, for example on the mutual recognition of qualifications; all with an initial time limit. These are all relatively complex issues because they will be impacted by future regulatory divergence. There is no way to pre-regulate this, other than by giving both sides unilateral remedies. We see this deal not as the end of the Brexit process but as the beginning, a framework deal full of holes to be filled later. The deal needs to be sufficiently robust. What the latest episode has told us is that it is delusional to think that a departing country and the EU could ever negotiate a solid future relationship at the first go. 

We agree with Lamberts that the UK is not being serious. But we also think that the EU wasted five months with a proposal that was objectively unreasonable, like the ECJ power grab. The EU has systematically misjudged UK politics, and is only now slowly coming to terms with Brexit. Both sides have strong incentives to make a deal. But we believe that both sides really need to hear the ticking clock. They are not hearing it now, but we believe they will hear the ticks more clearly by September.

Show Comments Write a Comment

July 08, 2020

Macron's 600 day government of battle

Emmanuel Macron's new government is starting to be called a 600-day government, the time until just after the next French presidential election. This government is one of combat. This is no longer a start-up government, but one with strong personalities and recognisable voices.  

Reactions have been strongest against the appointment of Eric Dupond-Moretti as justice minister. The professional organisation of magistrates denounced it already as a declaration of war. To understand this nomination one has to see the potential of law and order to dominate the 2022 presidential campaign. This is Macron's bet. Marine Le Pen is already laying the groundwork for her party. Le Pen's outbursts on twitter are no longer about Europe or globalisation, but about democracy, civil liberties and justice. Le Pen is covering a broad spectrum that seems to resonate with the public. She is denouncing strong police action against gilets jaunes protesters. But she also criticises judges' lax rulings against petty criminals. She sees judges as ideologues. Dupond-Moretti could be the one to take the air away from Le Pen. But, equally, his persona could cause more bloodshed, warns Chloé Morin from the Jean-Jaurès foundation. It is a big gamble.

For the Élysée palace, one of the purposes of this reshuffle was to break the narrative of the people versus the elites, with a return to the nation and its heritage. After all, some of the most-watched films during lockdown were those by Louis de Funès, a comedian of a bygone age. The public's turn to heritage has been noticed by the presidential team, writes Le Monde. The new government's casting comes from this understanding: Dupond-Moretti as a great lawyer, French-style; the popular Roselyne Bachelot as culture minister; and Gérald Darmanin as the new interior minister, the man to stand behind the police. To fight the image of being out of touch with the people, the Elysée also cooked up a plan that includes a new contractual relationship with local and municipal governments.

Macron will outline the political path himself on Bastille day, to be followed up with more details by his new prime minister Jean Castex. The president promised a fundamental change in method along four thematic axes labelled as reconstruction, Republican patriotism, contractual politics, and Europe. We shall see what this means exactly. But clearly the threat is perceived to come from the right, not from the left.

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

  • September 21, 2020
  • Forget soft power
  • September 11, 2020
  • Russia's extremely hostile threat to Germany
  • September 01, 2020
  • What just happened in front of the Reichstag?
  • When revolutions fail
  • August 25, 2020
  • What should the EU do about Belarus?
  • August 17, 2020
  • How Putin could divide the EU over Belarus
  • The impossible mission of forming a federal government in Belgium
  • July 27, 2020
  • Germany is one of the most unequal countries in Europe
  • July 20, 2020
  • What will happen on January 1
  • July 14, 2020
  • Why the far-right might win in the end
  • July 10, 2020
  • On Germany's eagerness to please Beijing
  • July 09, 2020
  • Good and bad ways to make the case for an EU tax
  • Castex' budget promises and reform grip
  • July 08, 2020
  • Maybe they are not negotiating after all?
  • Macron's 600 day government of battle