The CSS Blog

The UK Government’s Brexit Strategy: What We Know So Far

Brexit, the painting

Courtesy Shakespearesmonkey/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 6 September 2016.

Theresa May seems to be looking for a compromise around freedom of movement in order to retain access to the Single Market.

It has been a long summer for those of us wondering what exactly Brexit is going to mean in practice. Since the initial commotion over the appointments of Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) David Davis (Brexit negotiations) and Liam Fox (International Trade) subsided, there has been an eerie quiet over the summer break about what the UK’s strategy would be for the forthcoming negotiations.

Beyond Prime Minister Theresa May’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, a drip feed of economic information showing that the anticipated post-Brexit crash in consumer confidence has not – for now – emerged, and speculation about whether May’s summer holidays in Switzerland were in part spent studying the EFTA model, there has been precious little actual information.

The past few days have felt like something of a watershed – a genuine start of term – with Theresa May’s visit to the G20 meeting in China, and the House of Commons debate on a petition for a second referendum forcing the government to unveil a little of what they are thinking. So what do we know now that we didn’t before?

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China-EU Relations: Post-Summit Perspectives

China and EU Flags

Courtesy Friends of Europe/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Relations on 27 July 2016.

The latest EU-China summit confirmed the increasing discrepancies between the two sides. China, in protecting its own market, treats European investors unevenly. Simultaneously, the PRC is seeking unlimited access to the EU market to export products resulting from its overcapacity. The EU is concerned about subsidised Chinese exports, which may increase unemployment in Europe. There are rifts in the normative domain as well: China has not accepted an arbitration tribunal’s decision about the South China Sea. The EU, in supporting peaceful means of resolving international disputes, has acknowledged the ruling. Now more than ever, the member states should take into account the European context of relations with the PRC and coordinate their policies towards China with the EU institutions.

The latest EU-China summit (12–13 July) was held after the release of a new EU strategy towards China and coincided with an announcement by an arbitration tribunal of its decision about the South China Sea.[1] The new strategy is the EU’s response to China’s global ambitions and the increasing number of problems in bilateral relations. The noticeable differences in the topics raised by the two sides during the summit vindicates the assumption of deepening discrepancies, including asymmetry in relations at the expense of the EU.

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The Impact of Brexit on the EU’s International Agreements

 EU flat with one star missing

Courtesy freestocks.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 15 July 2016.

The prospect of Brexit has kicked up a lot of dust around the now famous Article 50 TEU withdrawal procedure, and the form, scope and sequence of the ‘divorce’ and future framework agreements between the EU and the UK.[1] One issue that has received far less attention is whether the international agreements concluded by the EU will continue to apply to the UK after Brexit, and if so, how.

The EU has concluded 1,139 bilateral and multilateral agreements with third parties, ranging from trade, development and sectoral economic issues like aviation, energy and fisheries, to matters related to visa, human rights, and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).[2] For those accords that fall squarely within the realm of the EU’s exclusive competences (e.g. classic free trade agreements) there is in principle no discussion: thanks to its single international legal personality, the EU and the third parties are the sole signatories to the agreements and will remain bound by them. A simple notification by the EU to the third parties might thus suffice to inform them that the EU no longer consists of 28 but 27 member states.

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Brexit and the Binary Bind

UK EU Leave image

UK EU Leave, courtesy Rareclass/Flickr

This article was first published on 1 July 2016 in the Kluwer Mediation Blog series

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the whole Brexit affair. I’m not talking about the result of the vote itself, but about the referendum process, the behaviour it engendered, and its aftermath.

All the classic features were present. Classic features of what? Well, of binary processes. Those that offer a win/lose, yes/no, remain/leave outcome, and nothing else. Rather like courts, as it happens.

Of course, I realise that decisions do need to be taken, and referenda are intended to produce a clear picture of the will of the people (only just, on this occasion, but I suppose it’s clear at least). Nothing wrong with that.

But the problem is that for all the desire for clarity and decisiveness, binary processes come with some fairly hefty downsides. And these have been laid bare for all to see in the referendum process. I will mention three.

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Eurocentrism and the Global Strategy: How Do Others Perceive the EU’s Role in the World?

Euro Blog

The Eifel tower lit up with the EU flag, courtesy looking4poetry/flickr

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 3 June 2016.

The idea of eurocentrism has been both debated and somewhat discredited in recent years. Philosophically, a realisation that European Enlightenment thought was perhaps more hegemonic than universal has led to a wider appreciation of alternative knowledge systems from further afield. Politically, a similar shift in the centre of gravity has displaced ‘the West’ as the paradigm of progress and development, helped by the economic rise of ‘the rest’. And on a more profane level, the navel-gazing of European policy-makers has also been challenged as too inward-focused in an increasingly competitive world.

As the European Union (EU) prepares to launch the new Global Strategy, it is worth examining how much it really has moved on; has it managed to come to terms with an increasingly non-eurocentric order? Can it craft a strategy which is assertively European yet realistically conscious of its external partners? A key consideration in gauging this is examining how these partners view Europe – what they think of its global role and how they see it developing. Such perceptions, although not fundamental drivers of policy formulation, nevertheless shape the reality within which decisions are taken, and are arguably often overlooked in the study of international relations.

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