Election done. What's the next stage in the Brexit negotiations?

Access to the comments Comments
By Pauline Bock
Election done. What's the next stage in the Brexit negotiations?
Copyright  Ben Stansall/Pool via REUTERS

The UK general election has given a large majority to the British Conservatives, allowing PM Boris Johnson a comfortable margin to pass his Brexit deal in parliament.

What's next in the Brexit saga?

At the European Council summit in Brussels, EU leaders praised the clarity that such a result brings to future Brexit negotiations. The general mood is that finally talks are going to move on.

"We have two very clear winners: the Conservatives and the SNP. This means we'll get the first phase of Brexit done: the UK is going to leave by 31 January", Fabian Zuleeg, the CEO of European Policy Centre, told Euronews.

But this doesn't mean Brexit will be fully done by January 31, as the Irish PM Leo Varadkar reminded reporters at the summit on Thursday: if Johnson's deal is voted by the British parliament, there are months, possibly years, of trade negotiations ahead.

Maria Demertzis, Deputy Director of the Brussels think tank Bruegel Institute, told Euronews that the Brexit situation "looks clearer now than before the election".

Johnson, who campaigned on a platform to "Get Brexit Done", has been given "power to proceed", Demertzis said.

Johnson's deal will probably pass parliament in January, kicking off the next round of talks, she said: "Then immediately we'll be starting the trade negotiations, that's what the EU will be hoping for."

But can this be done by January 31?

The EU would be willing to grant an extension, because it "would not want to take the blame for a hard Brexit", Demertzis said; but if the deal is passed quickly and ratified by national parliaments in EU members states, this would not necessarily be the case.

The next question then would be to see if a trade deal can be reached within a year. "The EU will be less willing to grant an extension if conversations haven't gone well in the course of the next year", Demertzis said.

"But the difficult part is then to come, as we enter trade negotiations and negotiations about the future relationship", Zuleeg believes. "Johnson has said this will be done quickly, but I think that promise will be revisited soon."

Bone of contention

Trade negotiations, however, might not be easy to navigate.

"The bone of contention will be how far the UK will want to deregulate its financial system: that, the EU will not be happy about", she added.

It will be crucial for the UK to get "good access" to the single market, she added, because it's important for its trade. "The EU has a big lever to use there."

Zuleeg agrees: "There is a misunderstanding about the leverage the UK has: it is in a very weak position in these negotiations. On the UK's side, there is a wish to have everything the membership offers, without the obligations. The EU is willing to negotiate any kind of deal as long as it preserves EU principles, and this is where the UK up to now has not been willing to concede."

Both sides might actually need to concede for a smooth trade deal, Pieter Cleede, of Open Europe, says: "We will need to see moves from both sides. The UK will have to move on timetable, to fudge or extend the transition, while the EU will have to move on its current inflexibility to give the UK partial market access, as negotiated with Switzerland in 1990s."

That is, at least, Cleppe added, if the bloc wants to preserve the ongoing trade flows. Which it undoubtedly will: "At the moment, the EU says it has to be 0% or 100%", he said. "I think that's not a tenable position."

Read more:

**EU leaders welcome Brexit 'clarity' after Johnson election success

Timeframe for post-Brext trade deal 'challenging', says EU chief

Brexit Guide: Where are we now — and how did we get here?