The Brexit Negotiations: Hampered by the UK’s Weak Strategy
DCU Brexit Institute - Working Paper N. 5-2019
25 Pages Posted: 28 May 2019 Last revised: 23 Mar 2020
Date Written: April 15, 2019
This paper scrutinises the UK government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations. Brexit negotiations were always going to be incredibly tough given the complexity of issues and a deeply divided country in the wake of the EU referendum but Theresa May’s government compounded these challenges with a poorly executed negotiation strategy both in Brussels and at home. The UK government embarked on negotiations with the EU without a clear set of negotiating objectives; it was unable to represent itself as a unified negotiating team; often found itself on the back foot, responding to EU proposals on both sequencing and content; and it pursued an ill-judged distributive strategy that did not reflect the nature of the underlying negotiating prob-lem or the UK’s relative power position. Across the negotiating table, the UK faced an EU negotiating team that had a clear set of negotiating objectives; maintained unity during the negotiations; and always seemed to be a step ahead, with a carefully thought-through strategy and detailed proposals. The shortcomings in the UK government’s strategy reflected weak political leadership. The Prime Minister focused on securing the short-term political survival of her government amidst turbulent and fractious domestic politics, over negoti-ations with the EU27.
Keywords: Brexit, Negotiations, European Union, Article 50, UK
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation