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Negotiating Brexit: what do our negotiating partners want?

A new publication from the Universities of East Anglia (UEA) and Surrey that looks at how national governments and EU institutions are approaching Brexit negotiations was launched on Friday 20 October, at an event held at the British Academy in London.

In the UK debate, it is sometimes forgotten that the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations will not only be decided in London. The stakes for the other 27 member states, as well as the EU institutions, are high, and they will have a major say and perhaps even the upper hand.

The event, ‘Negotiating Brexit: what do our negotiating partners want?’, looks at how national governments and the EU institutions are approaching the negotiations. It asks:

  • How important is Brexit to them? Did they see it coming? How are they preparing? Do they see the UK’s departure as a matter for regret, an opportunity, or both?
  • How do they view the principles that were adopted by the European Council in the wake of the UK referendum? Do they think that Michel Barnier is doing a good job as the EU’s chief negotiator? Is unity likely to hold or will it dissolve when and if the talks move to the UK’s future trading relationship?
  • How are they viewed from the national capitals of the EU27?

The publication is written by a team of academic specialists from across Europe on the model of publications from the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ project. The publication will be launched at the British Academy, alongside presentations from the authors, as well as former Foreign Secretary of State Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC; Legal Counsel at EU reform conferences from Maastricht to Lisbon Jean-Claude Piris; and Director General at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Chief Advisor to the EU Brexit Negotiator Stefaan De Rynck. The conference is sold out, a free download of the booklet is available.

Professor Hussein Kassim, professor of politics in UEA’s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies, is research leader on the wider project, ‘Negotiating Brexit: national governments, EU institutions and the UK.’

Prof Kassim said: “The main messages that emerge from the study are shock, but not surprise, at the referendum outcome; limited sympathy for the UK, but a desire to maintain good relations and close cooperation in the future; and strong support for the principles adopted by EU leaders in June 2016 and for Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.”

Dr Simon Usherwood, reader in politics at the University of Surrey, is co-investigator of the project, and created infographics to summarise the findings.

Dr Usherwood said: “It is clear that the EU27 and the European Institutions have organised themselves both rapidly and effectively in managing the process of the UK’s departure. At the same time, there are only a small number of member states – notably Ireland and Germany – that are currently highly engaged with the process, with most others being ready to rely on the Commission to serve their interests. Whether the high level of coordination will continue as talks move towards the time when decisions – and compromises – are required, remains to be seen.”

The ‘Negotiating Brexit: national governments, EU institutions and the UK’ project brings together specialists on Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and the EU institutions to monitor approaches to the negotiations and the internal politics of Brexit. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), associated with ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’ programme, and based at UEA.

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