EU aiming for a shorter, less detailed political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship

In a new blog, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar questions Michel Barnier’s recent statements on the economic indivisibility of trade in goods and services. She writes, “Barnier’s point is that even if the UK stays fully aligned with EU rules and regulations on goods in order to achieve frictionless trade, its freedom to diverge on services could allow it to become a regulatory competitor by the backdoor.” But she argues, “The services most linked to the manufacture of these goods – engineering, consulting, market research, accounting […] – are regulated largely at the national, rather than EU, level. The EU doesn’t have the perfect regulatory playing field it claims to have – the UK already has freedom to deregulate in key services sectors while Britain is a member state. This would remain the case under the Chequers.” She also notes, “The EU may say that these arguments miss the point – even if services are not fully regulated at the EU level now, the Single Market will develop further…But this has not prevented the EU from striking “goods only” deals with non-EU countries before.” She points out, “The link between goods and services is even more pronounced in Swiss exports, but the EU still agreed to a preferential deal in goods.”

Elsewhere, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe and Leopold Traugott take a look at EU27 reactions to gauge in how far Theresa May’s Chequers proposal may increase pressure on EU negotiators to become more flexible. They write, “Despite its flaws, there is a growing sentiment across Europe that the UK’s Chequers plan is a substantial proposal that needs to be taken seriously,” concluding, “Chequers itself may not be the balance of rights and obligations the EU27 are looking for, but there is likely to be increasing pressure from within the EU27 for EU negotiators to engage seriously over what kind of bespoke agreement actually would.”

Meanwhile, Open Europe director Henry Newman writes in The Guardian that a no-deal Brexit would be “a major geopolitical and strategic event. And the prospect of the UK and EU failing to reach agreement on an orderly uncoupling has global implications.” He calls on all EU member states “to look beyond the details of customs arrangements and participation in this or that agency, important though they are, to the bigger canvas: the future shape of this continent.” He concludes, “There’s still time to agree a fair and sustainable new partnership that works for both sides, and avoids the nightmare of a total collapse in the Brexit process.”

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