Speaking at a recent roundtable the former president of the European Council also said no deal will be reached until the last momentby Anand Menon / June 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
When it comes to Brexit, it’s probably worth heeding the advice of a man who has unparalleled experience of European Union level negotiations. But Herman Van Rompuy, the mild mannered and drily amusing former President of the European Council, doesn’t think we should hold our breath for any particular outcome. Rather, he thinks Brexit might end up being sorted at the 11th hour, deep into the autumn, when a choice has to be made—between a deal and no deal. This, as he puts it, would be the “last moment, with your back against the wall, the abyss in front of you and a knife under your throat.”
Van Rompuy was speaking at a roundtable that the UK in a changing Europe organised at a large academic conference in Paris (yes, the food was great, thanks). If you’re really keen, you can watch the whole thing here. He spoke after former Ambassador Ivan Rogers, someone else with long experience of EU talks, not least David Cameron’s drive for a renegotiation of the terms of UK membership. Rogers was more caustic, clinically pointing out the key tension at the heart of British position in favour of “elaborate managed divergence”: London wants to take back control while remaining close to the EU, with continuity in large areas of the economy and security, while being happily outside the EU’s governance structures and legal system.
This, as he pointed out, is really not on offer, and to complete the picture we had a lawyer ready to underline the realities of negotiating trade deals with the EU. My colleague Catherine Barnard has perfected her bingo caller routine: rattling out the list of treaty articles that might cover an eventual trade deal with the EU, whilst underlining how long and complex this process might be.
Not an encouraging event, all things considered. And my own contribution, if anything, made things worse. I was tasked with speaking about the politics in the UK, and duly pointed out both how visceral and how unpredictable these are.
So where does all this leave us? First, weaker all round. As Van Rompuy put it, Brexit for the EU is more than a setback, “it is a political amputation.” And it springs…