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The Coming Brexit Breakdown?

Posted by hkarner - 2. Mai 2017

Mark Leonard is Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s invocation of Article 50 in March, many experts believe there is a strong chance that the coming UK-EU breakup talks will be calamitous for both sides. Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains why.

MAY 1, 2017 3 Mark Leonard, Project Syndicate

Since British Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50, formally starting the process of UK withdrawal from the EU, both sides have been adjusting their positions. May has signaled her support for EU unity and indicated that free movement may continue during a transition period. Meanwhile, the EU has agreed to discuss the outlines of a future trade agreement while the divorce talks go on.

And yet, because of the competing logics of the two sides, many experts think there is still a strong chance that the talks will result in tragedy for both.

May has revealed her hierarchy of goals, which reflects a belief that some things are more important than money.

Oddly, British Euroskeptics expect the EU’s other 27 governments to do exactly the opposite, and put short-term economic objectives ahead of politics. But they, too, are politically driven. Many fear that the UK will topple a series of Euroskeptic dominoes. So their negotiating logic is governed by a remorseless syllogism: All clubs have rules and benefits. There has to be a difference between being in the club and outside it. So being outside must be worse.

The UK and the EU are now locked in a dangerous dance that may well continue until time runs out. The result could be the worst possible outcome: the UK doesn’t so much leave the EU as fall out of it. Beyond the economic damage, poor relations could make cooperation difficult in other areas such as territorial defense and counter-terrorism, trade and sanctions, international diplomacy, and climate change.

There is no moral equivalence between the self-defeating solipsism of May’s Brexit priorities and the EU’s efforts to defend a European order built from the ruins of World War II and the Cold War. But when they go head to head, they could contribute to the same disastrous result: a Europe stranded in Trump’s new Hobbesian world disorder.

 

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