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Getting the UK ready for the next phase of Brexit negotiations

The UK could secure an EU trade deal in 2020 if it learns lessons of Brexit talks.

Raoul Ruparel was special adviser on Europe to Prime Minister Theresa May between July 2018 and July 2019, having previously held the same role at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) between October 2016 and July 2018. This paper sets out his conclusions on the lessons learnt from the first round of Brexit negotiations, and his advice to the prime minister as the UK prepares for the next phase.

There has been much talk over the past few years about getting the UK ready for leaving the EU without a deal. However, fundamentally, the government and civil service have a lot of work to do if they are to prepare to leave with a deal – especially given Boris Johnson’s deadline of the end of 2020. As it stands, the UK does not yet appear ‘match-fit’ for the next phase of negotiations.

Along with policy and procedural decisions still to be made, the focus of the first two sections of this paper, there are four broad steps which need to take place from now to get a deal brought into force. These relate to the government’s mandate for entering the new negotiations; the way it approaches these; ratification; and implementation. This paper addresses all four of these steps.

Contrary to popular belief, negotiations in 2020 can return a clear outcome by the end of the year – subject to a few caveats. Of these, time may prove most pertinent, and may constrain the ambition with which any free-trade agreement (FTA) is produced. Before looking ahead to the second phase, it is important also to learn from the first. Based on the author's experience, there are five key lessons for the prime minister and his team to consider as they begin the process.



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