The UK risks stumbling into the next phase of negotiations with the EU without a plan, putting the country at an unnecessary disadvantage.
This report looks at what went right – and wrong – in the first phase of EU negotiations. It makes a series of recommendations about how the Government should approach the much tougher issues surrounding the UK’s long-term future relationship with the EU. The extension of Article 50 provides an opportunity for the UK to prepare properly for the next phase of talks, which will inevitably happen whether or not the UK leaves with a withdrawal agreement.
The report says that the main problems in the first phase were at the political level. The negotiations were bedevilled by the absence of Cabinet agreement on the shape of the future economic relationship. Politicians, particularly on the Government backbenches, did not trust the UK’s official negotiators.
But not everything went wrong. When negotiations succeeded (with Euratom for example), it was because the UK decided on its objectives early and engaged with specifics.
The report argues that the next round will be shaped by the Government’s decision on what type of relationship with the EU the UK is seeking. Before negotiations begin, the Government should agree, and publish, its ambition for the future relationship, without drawing absolute red lines.