Isabelle Riepe (University of Warwick)
On 11th October 2017 the department of PAIS (Politics and International studies) held a roundtable talk titled ‘The Brexit Talks: Progress and Implications’. The panel, presented by Tom Long, included Andreas Murr, who spoke about electoral implications of Brexit and Gabriel Siles-Brügge, talking about trade. Both are associate professors at PAIS. The guest panellist was Helena Farrand-Carrapico, co-director of the Aston Centre for Europe, from Aston University, Birmingham, who talked about implications of Brexit on internal security.
The talk was held in the context of the current talks between the UK and the EU on a future deal on the UK’s exit from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent Florence Speech aimed to clarify the UK’s stand on Brexit and its future relationship with Europe. The speech intended to breathe a new dynamic into the talks, which had drifted into a stalemate over the summer. However, within the Conservative Party opposing views on how the final Brexit deal should look are creating a schism within the party, leaving the public confused on how Brexit and domestic politics will progress from now.
Read more about the talks:
Questions and debate were plentiful ranging across a range of issues and topics. Interesting highlights included the debate on the UK’s fall-back onto the WTO and Interpol (International police organisation aiming at international police cooperation) after leaving the EU, which includes leaving Europol the European police cooperation organisation. Panellists answered, that the EU standards regarding both trade and security have been so much more detailed and operational in the EU area that WTO and Interpol will mean significant decrease of all standards the UK is used to at the moment.
A member of the audience raised the disconnection between communicators: The UK’s and EU’s negotiators, so it seems, speak different languages regarding the Brexit process and its outcome: David Davis and Michel Barnier are speaking rather about each other to their respective audiences – the British people respectively the EU27 – than to each other. The negotiation situation currently wavers between a win-lose approach – one side wins, the other loses - against a problem-solving – both sides cooperate to find a solution – approach. Additionally, it remains open whether the negotiations will continue to be filled by technocratic terms or move onto more politicised ground. Matters regarding the EU are often phrased and presented in highly specialised language, which needs sufficient knowledge about the EU’s political, economic and social workings to be understood properly. Therefore, the EU is often described as a technocratic body, which suggests that it is quite hard for someone who does not have the necessary background knowledge on the EU’s functions understand how the European Union works. Politicised ground in this context means, discussion based on less complex ground, where both sides have similar levels of knowledge and discussion can be held on equal grounds. While the EU and UK are very much on the same page on security matters, the matter of what kind of audience politicians on both sides operate with is different. The complexity of the EU stands in stark contrast with the simple yes-no answer voters in Britain have been presented with last year: Things are not as simple as they seemed.
The same matters for the so called ‘no-deal’ of having a clear break from the EU opening up new space for British regulatory policies on trade and professional services. In reality, ‘no deal’ is nearly impossible. Agreements have to be made, especially on matters like security or aviation for example, otherwise the British police and secret service will be blind and aeroplanes will remain on tarmacs.
Another noteworthy thing to take away from the Q&A was, that public opinion at times is very unpredictable and that its shifts in the last six years, especially on the libertarian – authoritarian scale are quite remarkable. Volatile mood swings especially in context of referenda show that the view on politics even on a national level differs between assumptions and ideas of the ‘simple people’ in their everyday lives and their MPs working in high politics.
Some questions remain: Why are more and more referenda held that have such big impact politically, economically and socially and thus, in how far will referenda have a future in or in how far are they the future of present day politics?
In summary, the PAIS roundtable touched upon a variety of very interesting and very important topics on the matter of Brexit talks. While high politics agree that security concerns and trade affairs should suffer as little change as possible, it has become obvious that the technocracy and complexity surrounding the EU and EU-membership have alienated – distanced – not only the public from its politicians but also British politicians from EU politicians. In order to solve this problem a common ground for discussion has to be found: Trade and security matters might provide such an opportunity to get the talks moving again.
Image: © Number 10, Flickr