Christopher Howarth is a senior Political Analyst at the think tank Open Europe. Prior to Open Europe he worked as a Conservative Foreign Affairs Adviser and senior researcher to a Shadow Europe Minister.
There are two broad strategies to achieve a situation where the UK can trade with the EU with the least amount of additional “baggage”. One is to seek to renegotiate from within to reduce the costs, both regulatory and democratic, of EU membership, while the other is to leave the EU and then seek to negotiate a new free trade agreement. Surprisingly, the final objective of both approaches is not as different as you might think, but they do both require negotiation with the EU’s member states and institutions. So what would the dynamic be in each scenario?
We often hear such comments as: “The EU won’t let us renegotiate” or “we sell more to them than they sell to us so we can get a better deal outside the EU”. While these are legitimate points, they are almost never tested.
Tomorrow, Open Europe will attempt to shed some light on what might happen by attempting the first ever simulated EU re-negotiation war game. War games are commonly used by governments, investment banks and intelligence bodies to work out probable reactions to situations. The outcomes often prove highly influential on actual policy decisions. For example, it is said that the German government war-gamed Greece’s exit from the euro – and decided not to pull the trigger. Indeed, given the real possibility of the UK being involved in EU negotiations of this type, it would be surprising if scenarios such as these are not already being played out in the FCO.
In order to see what might happen if an incoming Conservative government fires the re-negotiating starting gun, we want to test two scenarios. The first is to see if the UK’s EU partners are willing to countenance a re-negotiation. If so we want to see what cards the UK and other parties have, what red lines the parties won’t budge from, whether there is scope for a deal and, if so, what it could look like.
The second scenario is that of the aftermath of a failed renegotiation, and the UK has signalled its intention to leave. Under this scenario, the UK would activate Article 50, triggering a two year period to see if it is possible to achieve a trade agreement. Under this scenario, we would again like to see what cards the UK would hold, and thus what kind of deal it could secure.
To make the war-game as realistic as possible, we will pit one of the foremost proponents of a new UK EU relationship – co-chair of the Fresh Start Group of Conservative MPs Andrea Leadsom MP – against someone you might charitably describe as a renegotiation sceptic – Pierre Lellouche, France’s Europe Minister. We will also have players representing the other EU actors, such as John Bruton, the former Irish Taoiseach, representing the European Commission and Parliament: Urban Ahlin, the Swedish Shadow Foreign Minister, for Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltics, and Lucio Caracciolo, the leading Italian geopolitical expert and Limes Chief editor, for Italy and Spain. We will also have actors for Germany, Poland, and the central European Visegrad group as well as the Netherlands and Belgium.
So how will this play out in real life? Will it be possible to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU? The real answer is that nobody knows, but everyone either thinks they know or wants to know. Book your place for tomorrow to find out by clicking here now!