the light of my
speculations yesterday about the kind of deal that Theresa May might be
hinting at in her so far rather cryptic comments, I was fascinated to come
across a discussion paper from Bruegel, a reformist
European think tank. Published on 29 August, it is entitled Europe
after Brexit: A proposal for a continental partnership. The abstract
- Participation in a new continental partnership system of inter-governmental decision making and enforcement;
- Contribution to the EU budget;
- Close cooperation on foreign policy, security and, possibly, defence matters
In essence what would be created would be a kind of dual system of the EU and the new continental partnership (CP). What is interesting about this proposal is that it is not just an idea for a deal to ‘accommodate’ the UK, but rather embeds this within a wider sense of a reformed EU and – something rarely discussed – a solution to some of the problems of the EEA, to the ongoing issues around the position of Switzerland, to the long-term situation of Turkey, and to some of the tensions between east and west European member states which are apparent in the run-up to the Bratislava summit. This is important if we move from a Brit-centric approach to Brexit in which the UK makes demands and negotiates for these to one which recognizes that Brexit and the negotiations around it are a two-way street.
It is striking how consistent this plan is with what May has said so far, and it could be seen as an intermediate model between Brexit-lite and hard Brexit which I and others have taken to be the only feasible options. It would be better than Brexit-lite in reducing the political and diplomatic damage of Brexit, and like Brexit-lite would reduce the economic damage. Of course, such a plan would face much opposition within both the UK and the EU and its member states. Still, it could be a workable solution. It’s certainly the most interesting idea for one that I have seen so far. It is well worth a read.