UK politicians’ ‘bullish commentary’ is souring climate for Brexit negotiations

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The FINANCIAL — The UK is systematically overestimating the strength of its hand in Brexit negotiations, with ‘bullish commentary’ from British politicians souring the climate prior to securing a deal, a new report has found.

The report, written by Dr Ed Turner and Professor Simon Green of the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE), is based on two private seminars held earlier this year with politicians and opinion formers in Berlin and Bratislava just weeks before the UK is scheduled to trigger Article 50.

It found membership and integrity of the single market and the rule of the European Court of Justice is a high priority in Germany, making the prospect of a UK-EU trade deal ‘difficult to achieve’.

In Central European countries – Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia – the UK’s ‘red line’ on freedom of movement is a significant stumbling block. However, the possibility of an EU trade deal with the UK post-Brexit is viewed more pragmatically, the report states.

Still, the benefits of outward migration to the UK are being increasingly questioned in Central Europe – having become associated to the phenomenon known as ‘brain drain’ where the countries’ highest trained workers emigrate in large numbers – indicating compromise by these countries may be considered.

In the summary, the report says: ‘Each of these countries is gearing up for the Brexit negotiations. The German government is formidably well-prepared, will be influential in shaping the EU position, and is resistant to any “bilateralisation” of negotiations. The [Central European] countries’ civil service capacity is more limited, but they are also becoming prepared.

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‘Bullish commentary from British politicians about the strength of their hand, and threats to engage in competitive reduction in levels of corporate taxation, are serving to sour the climate prior to negotiations, and there is a sense across these countries that the UK government is overestimating the strength of its negotiating position.’

It concludes: ‘There are very significant obstacles standing in the way of a mutually beneficial outcome of the Brexit process. While each of the countries recognises the potential usefulness of bilateral and multilateral links in the future … the UK’s “red lines” will make it very hard to achieve a positive deal.’


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