UK-EU relations after Brexit Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

The scope of the future UK-EU relationship

1.The most constructive way to approach negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship would be for both sides to focus on their desired outcomes. Instead, both sides appear to have approached the negotiations by focusing on ‘red lines’, closing off rather than opening up the options for establishing a fruitful and lasting relationship. (Paragraph 22)

2.The Prime Minister set the tone in her speech to the Conservative Party conference in October 2016, and the Commission’s ‘Brexit stairway’, published in December 2017, was negative and prescriptive in its representation of the options for future relations. Even the European Council’s March 2018 guidelines, while paying lip service to the EU’s desire for a close partnership with the UK, do not set out a compelling vision for that partnership, but are predicated on reacting to the UK’s ‘red lines’ (Paragraph 23)

3.We welcome the Government’s increasing realism, which suggests that it is beginning to understand the costs and compromises that will be needed to achieve a successful outcome. Both sides now need to change their mindset if a genuinely close and mutually beneficial partnership is to be achieved. (Paragraph 24)

The benefits and costs of the new relationship

4.The benefits that the UK and the EU could derive from a deep and durable partnership will come at a cost, and may entail trade-offs between economic and political considerations. There is no ‘free lunch’ for either side. (Paragraph 60)

5.Now that the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement has been in large part agreed, the starting point for negotiations on the future relationship must be that failure to reach agreement will, by default, result in ‘no deal’—of which we said, in our Report on Brexit: deal or no deal, “It is difficult, if not impossible, to envisage a worse outcome”. The negotiations will be about achieving benefits from a new relationship, rather than preserving aspects of the UK’s EU membership. (Paragraph 61)

6.The two sides therefore need to start by identifying beneficial outcomes, associated costs, and areas of mutual interest. If they do this, and are prepared to compromise on their respective ‘red lines’, there is every reason to believe that agreements can be reached, and benefits realised. (Paragraph 62)

7.We agree with the Government that North-South cooperation, and the avoidance of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, will be best secured within the framework of the overall UK-EU relationship, but we also understand why both sides have agreed to address them as part of the ‘Phase 1’ negotiations. The phasing of the negotiations thus means that the UK Government urgently needs to take key decisions of principle, on trade, customs, regulatory alignment and the movement of people. (Paragraph 63)

Models for the future relationship

8.The various models proposed for the future UK-EU relationship all deliver benefits, but all do so at a cost. Compromises will be needed if the two sides’ respective ‘red lines’ are not to preclude the deep partnership to which both aspire. (Paragraph 102)

9.From the UK’s perspective, the greater the benefits sought, for instance in respect of trade in services, the greater the compromises that will be needed. (Paragraph 103)

10.The existing models, such as EEA/EFTA, or a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement, are helpful in clarifying the options, but they must not be allowed to dictate the terms of the negotiations. Existing models fail to capture the full possibilities of the UK-EU relationship—but a gesture of good will, from one or other side, may be needed to unlock these possibilities. (Paragraph 104)

11.We note the European Parliament’s support for a UK-EU Association Agreement, and applaud the Parliament’s readiness to contemplate innovative approaches to the future UK-EU relationship. We also note that Association Agreements are by their nature dynamic and evolutionary, and that a UK commitment to such a partnership could bring about a positive change in the tone and language of the negotiations. (Paragraph 105)

Reaching the finishing line

12.Time is short: in a matter of weeks the framework for future UK-EU relationship will be finalised, in the form of a political declaration annexed to the October European Council conclusions. We are concerned at the delay and uncertainty that has surrounded the Government’s development of detailed, workable proposals. (Paragraph 121)

13.While the ‘political declaration’ may not be legally binding, we accept that at least at a political level it may bind future European Councils, and thus limit the options available to the UK in future negotiations. This makes it all the more important that the Government bring forward these proposals in timely fashion, so as to influence the drafting of the declaration. (Paragraph 122)

14.Given the closeness of the referendum result, the Government must articulate an inclusive vision for future UK-EU relations, commanding broad support, in order to achieve an acceptable and durable outcome. (Paragraph 123)

15.The Government will also need to articulate a long-term vision that speaks to the EU. That means using the language of partnership, accepting that costs and compromises will be necessary, and acknowledging that the EU may evolve, post-Brexit, towards greater political and economic integration. (Paragraph 124)

16.In summary, the Government’s forthcoming White Paper will be judged against the following key principles:

17.The EU will then need to reciprocate. So far it has adopted a reductive approach, without fully acknowledging the importance to the EU’s long-term security and prosperity of a close and lasting partnership with the UK. That must change. (Paragraph 126)

18.Most negotiations start with ‘cherry-picking’, as each party focuses on its own interests. The success of the negotiation can then be measured by the willingness of all parties to compromise, as they discover mutual interests and deliver shared benefits. (Paragraph 127)

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