EU Elections – Ten impacts on Brexit
Fact 1 – The default legal position, enshrined in both UK and EU law, is a no deal exit unless we can agree a separate deal with the EU. (We repeat this only because of all those MPs/commentators running around TV studios proclaiming that no deal is off the table). Right now, despite Parliament loudly rejecting the current EU/May Withdrawal Agreement three times, the EU is refusing point blank to entertain any further renegotiation.
Fact 2 – If there is a revised version of the Withdrawal Agreement to be negotiated between the UK and EU, it will be delivered by three new leaders whom we know nothing about; the new yet to be chosen PM and the new totally unknown replacements for Tusk and Juncker. New leaders like making bold moves to solve stalled political problems, so there may be hope.
Fact 3 – The new PM will be in post by the end of July. Obviously, it will be a more hard-line Brexiteer who will clearly be more robust about no deal.
Fact 4 – Frankly no one has any clue who the EU will select as the new European Council (Tusk) and Commission (Juncker) Presidents. The leading candidates currently running – Manfred Weber for the EPP and Frans Timmermans for the Socialists – quite possibly won’t survive the national governments’ and European Parliament’s interference in the process, which is long, tortuous and deeply political. Throw into the mix that after the EU elections, these two main political groups in the European Parliament no longer have a majority and so they will need to do deals to get their candidates, whoever they end up being, over the line. And then add the timescale dimension to the problem: the result is likely to not be clear until October and possibly not complete until November, with potential European Parliament delays. Tricky, with a 31 October Brexit day deadline looming.
Fact 5 – The EU election results have created further instability in the EU: a confirmed General Election in Greece, quite possibly a General Election in Italy and the potential for a General Election in Germany. And four of the five largest contingents of new MEPs arriving in Brussels shortly are from anti-EU parties: 29 from the Brexit Party, 28 from Salvini’s Lega from Italy, 23 from the Law and Justice Party from Poland and 21 from Le Pen’s National Rally in France. If that isn’t a message to EU governments, then what is? (And as if all of this wasn’t enough, the Austrian Government has just collapsed, adding yet more uncertainty.)
Fact 6 – The EU election results, and specifically the rise of the populists and Liberals, will surely have a significant impact on the now weakened EU national governments’ attitudes; do they continue to see Brexit as a totemic fight, potentially throwing more fuel on the populist fire, or do they need a speedy conclusion whether through no deal or a revised deal in the hope to avoid no deal, just to clear the decks and help the EU move on?
Fact 7 – All this probably makes a further extension more unlikely. (With Marine Le Pen’s National Rally beating Macron’s En Marche soundly, this will frighten the bejesus out of Macron. He was reticent to give the UK a Brexit extension in March, and this result will make him double down hard should that be an issue again in October).
Fact 8 – All this probably makes no deal more likely.
Fact 9 – Northern Ireland just got richer. The Tories will need the DUP more than ever. Standby for another billion quid heading off to Belfast to buy that support.
Fact 10 – Despite all the media/commentariat chatter about a possible General Election, the clear lesson for both main parties is that this is the very last thing either of them need right now!