THE BLOG

Brexit Negotiations Have Actually Already Started

30/06/2016 09:42 | Updated 30 June 2016

Although the European Union, through Jean-Claude Junker, Donald Tusk, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel, may be insisting on not starting any kind of negotiations with the United Kingdom on the Brexit as long as Article 50 has not been triggered by the British Prime Minister, informal negotiations have actually already started.

We are basically having the Brexiters -- Boris Johnson and co. -- throwing potential Brexit plans at the British media, through the articles they write (Boris Johnson's article last Monday in The Telegraph is a perfect example), the interviews they give to papers and magazines, their participation to TV programmes such as Daily Politics (David Davies on Wednesday for instance), BBC Question Time (Dominic Raab was there last Sunday), Andrew Marr Show (Guest star: Iain Duncan Smith), to test the waters with the EU leaders before the formal negotiations actually start.

The Conservative Party leadership election is yet another example of how the Brexiters get their ideas out there, with each new Tory candidate bringing new concepts and new ideas of what the UK's new relationship with the European Union could look like under a new Prime Minister and a new government following the EU referendum result.

It is then the EU leaders' turn to respond when asked at press conferences by the journalists about the various concepts and ideas coming from Britain's former Leave campaigners. When the likes of Hollande and Merkel -- obviously -- mostly respond in the negative to nearly everything proposed, insisting on the fact that "any agreement, which will be concluded with the UK as a third country, will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations" and that "access to the single market requires acceptance of all four freedoms", the Brexiters go back to their drawing boards to try and find new ideas. And so on...

The negotiations have not officially started since Article 50 has not been invoked by the UK government yet. However, the discussion between one side and the other is already going on with the journalists and the media playing the important role of intermediaries, whether they want it or not.

The Brexiters also use the media to test the waters with the British public, to know whether it is inclined to accept such-and-such a deal as a good deal with their European neighbours, monitoring the media, the comments, the social media.

Don't get them wrong, these test ideas, concepts and plans are just this: Virtual and abstracts thoughts that don't amount to a pledge that the future PM would have to respect after negotiations are concluded. Keeping everything informal is paramount and means words and thoughts are non-binding.

All that will obviously change once the new Tory leader is chosen, because they will be elected on a specific commitment for Britain and with a mandate from the British people to effectively conclude the best possible deal for Britain once out of the EU.

However, between what 52% of the British people voted for and what the EU leaders are ready to accept as a good deal with Britain, the new Prime Minister's window of operation is extremely narrow. Some strong headache, a lot of coffee and many sleepless nights to come for the new British PM...

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