European Politics and Institutions

Brexit: Launching Satellite Britain

5 December 2017
Andrew Duff (Visiting Fellow at the European Policy Centre and President of the Spinelli Group; former MEP)



Ahead of the 14-15 December European Summit, Andrew Duff explores the tough issues that will be at the heart of the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, the setup of a new privileged partnership between the UK and the EU. Duff makes the following main points:

  1. Brexit may mark the end of Britain’s unhappy membership of the EU, but it is not the end of Europe’s British problem. The British - stricken as they are - need to be treated by their erstwhile partners not like any other third country but as a privileged partner.
  2. Since in order to give effect to the result of the Brexit referendum the UK has to leave the EU’s customs union and single market; the difficulties of maintaining equivalence between British and European norms in these circumstances - as well as the costs of not doing so - are increasingly obvious.
  3. While there can be no special trade deal for Northern Ireland, robust regulatory alignment between the whole of the UK and the EU, entrenched in an association agreement, coupled with respect for the Good Friday Agreement, should allow a soft border in Ulster.
  4. The core of the new association will be a comprehensive rules-based trade and investment partnership, including new customs arrangements, in the form of a free trade agreement, whose purpose will be to limit economic self-harm for the UK and minimise collateral damage to the EU economy.
  5. Home grown British regulators will be needed to substitute for the role of the European Commission in surveillance of regulatory equivalence and compliance enforcement. In some cases such UK equivalents exist and will be able to perform their new functions once they are accorded an increase in powers and resources. In other cases, wholly new regulatory authorities will have to be created.
  6. The new association agreement will also need robust joint EU-UK institutions at ministerial, technical, parliamentary and judicial levels. The judicial tribunal is the more tricky to design. The European Court of Justice will have to drop its opposition to sharing its jurisdiction with a privileged partner state through the mechanism of an EU-UK joint court. Among other things, the joint court will resolve many of the first phase remaining difficulties concerning citizens’ rights. 
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