The view from Brussels
The EU walking the walk on ‘No-deal’?
POLITICO this week leaked an internal European Commission Secretariat General document detailing the institutional state of play on the raft of Brexit preparedness and contingency proposals, used to brief the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group.
As a reminder, the proposals range from common rules for ship inspections, to the EU’s energy efficiency targets, to ensuring basic rail, road and air connectivity, through social security and Erasmus + to fishing authorisations and visa exemptions.
The gist of the leaked document is that the Secretariat General and its Brexit Preparedness Group are satisfied with the progress the being made in the European Parliament and the Council towards the expedient adoption of the legislation before 29 March. MEP’s will vote on the files at the March Plenary.
On only one file does the Secretariat General believe that progress is not on track, specifically on measures relating to the financing of the EU budget, a file that will leak into the April Plenary.
The Grayling View
When meeting with the Brexit Preparedness Group back in Autumn 2018 your columnist was struck by the sheer scale of the task given to its members and by a sense that the Commission, unusually for Brexit, might not have a grip on ‘no-deal’ preparations.
The Secretariat General’s report that preparations are on track is testament to the Commission’s ability, when pressed, to deliver complex projects spanning the entire policy purview granted to it under EU law.
Following another defeat for the UK Government’s Brexit strategy in the UK Parliament and no clear route to avoiding a ‘no-deal’, the EU appear reasonably confident that they are mitigating well against its impacts.
Some industry sectors would suggest that the measures do not go far enough. We will have to wait to see whether the lawmakers are correct, although of course, ideally we would never know.
The view from jsk.berlin: our affiliate in Germany
A glimmer of hope at the 11th hour?
Germans are breathing a sigh of relief – some more publicly than others – as one major player in the Brexit stalemate begins wiggling a pinky finger. The German Brexit concerns are myriad, from plummeting food prices and lost vacations to chlorine chickens (oh yeah, and also the future of the Single Marker), and with the exception of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the other four parties represented in the Bundestag have clearly singled their preference for a ‘soft’ Brexit.
And so the Leader of the UK Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn’s offer of a ‘softer’ Brexit is a sight for many sore, German eyes. The leader of the German Socials Democrats (SPD), Andrea Nahles, wrote a letter of support to Corbyn. For good measure, she also posted a message to the same effect on her Facebook page. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) herself gave a diplomatically positive, though indirect, response: “I am convinced that we can find solutions without reopening the Withdrawal Agreement”.
The jsk.berlin view
Martin Schulz (SPD), the former president of the European Parliament, also welcomes Corbyn’s efforts. But let’s not forget that the UK Labour Party and German Social Democrats have a very long and amicable history. In other parts of German politics, Corbyn is seen far more critically, and indeed, his proposal has come very late in an extremely tedious and contentious negotiation. It also still seems to be anything but realistic. And so we approach the final countdown and the ball it still squarely in the UK’s court.
The view from the United States
The US watches from the sidelines
Although the foreign-policy establishment in Washington is watching Brexit closely, rank-and-file lawmakers are generally much less focused on it than their European counterparts, particularly given ongoing internal crises like the partial government shutdown. One notable exception to this is in the area of trade, where the Trump Administration has notified Congress of its intent to begin negotiations with the UK once Brexit is concluded. There is longstanding bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill -- in particular among the committees overseeing foreign trade (House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee) -- in helping to shape a future U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.
That said, Trump and his inner circle are notably pro-Brexit and are cheering the process on, both publicly and behind the scenes. In Davos last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned Brexit as an example of a series of global disruptions that are overall a “positive development.” Washington media company Axios reported that National Security Advisor John Bolton regularly talks to UK International Trade Minister Liam Fox and Transport Minister Chris Grayling, conveying support for Brexit and encouraging them to “keep it up.”
A handful of U.S. lawmakers with large numbers of Irish-Americans in their constituencies are watching the Brexit process as it pertains to the Irish border. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) for example, stated, upon the failure of Theresa May’s plan in Parliament: “I urge all sides to redouble their efforts to find a path forward that can, at the same time, respect the achievements of the European experiment, the will of the people of the United Kingdom, and the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. I look forward to continuing to engage with my counterparts in both the UK and the EU as they navigate the challenges before them.”
Andrew Adair is a former Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist in DC and founder of DC/Berlin, a consultancy helping German business navigate opportunities in Washington. He has partnered with our German affiliate jsk.berlin as a transatlantic consultant.
Dates for your diary
29 March 2019 - UK expected to leave EU
31 December 2020 - Expected end of transition
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