With attention this week focused on a Brexit deal and implications for the UK, Anastasia Ershova explores the short and long-term impacts of Brexit on the EU.
This has been a truly fascinating couple of days which brought a new Brexit deal, yet another historic vote in the Parliament and contradictory letters from the PM to the EU. Last weekend, unfortunately, did not bring more clarity to whether, how and when Brexit is going to happen. While the UK news outlets tightly focused their attention on the political game within Parliament and offered a variety of predictions and prospective scenarios to take place in the upcoming weeks, there is a clear lack of discussion of what this failure of approving the exit deal implies for the European Union (EU) and its current priorities.
One of the pressing issues for the EU is the approval of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. A week prior to the Council meeting, in its resolution the European Parliament urged the Council to move forward with negotiations concerning new financial commitments, and emphasised its readiness to reject any Council position that attempts to disregard the Parliaments’ prerogatives within MFF. On the one hand, the MFF negotiations are typically characterised by high tensions between EU institutions. On the other hand, considering the uncertainty generated by a repeated failure of the UK government to secure the UK exit plan on the domestic arena, the formulation of realistic financial plans for the block may become even more challenging. One source of uncertainty stems from the unclear timeline of the transition period for the UK withdrawal. The current deal assumes that the UK will continue making payments to the EU budget until the end of the transition period (currently set to 31 December 2020). However, extending the deadline for Brexit day may substantially alter this timeframe, inevitably influencing the dynamic of negotiations and the allocation of funding within the EU. The UK parliamentary report further stresses that it remains unclear what financial obligations the UK will respect in case of a No Deal outcome.
The second point here relates to the process of approving the MFF as stipulated in the TFEU. Essentially, in this decision-making process, the Council plays a crucial role, while the consent of the EP is required for the conclusion of negotiations. The unanimity requirement in the Council suggests that every member-state must support the proposed MFF. With unclear deadline and conditions of Brexit, one cannot help but wonder to what extent participation of the UK in these negotiations can be an additional obstacle to achieving consensus among already disagreeing member-states.
To make the matter worse, the EU has postponed the date when the new Commission takes over. The Commission is empowered to submit the budget proposals, and in case of no agreement between the Council and the EP on MFF, it is to formulate a new draft which allows to reconcile diverging preferences of the legislators (see art. 314 of TFEU). Currently, Juncker’s Commissioners are filling in the posts until their successors are approved by the newly elected Parliament. Yet, it remains unclear when and how quickly the new executive of the EU will take over and whether it will include the UK Commissioner in its midst.
Overall, the perpetual uncertainty of the Brexit conditions has a broad set of implications for the EU in the short and long-term. The confidence of the UK PM in the latest deal negotiations at the EU summit, and subsequent vote in the Commons further directed public attention to the Brexit debate within the UK. Yet, when discussing effects of the recent events, it is crucial to step beyond the UK-centred analysis, and clearly realise institutional, procedural, and policy-wise implications this seemingly interminable Brexit process generates for the European Union itself.
Note: this article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the LSE Department of Government, nor of the London School of Economics.