Theresa May’s guardedly optimistic Brexit scenario

The leader of the UK proposes a strategy for handling the Brexit process
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Florence, proposing to set a transitional period from the date of Brexit before moving to a permanent trade deal (source: dpa)
  • The UK side proposes reaching a broad agreement by December 2017 on the main elements of its separation from the EU
  • After Brexit takes place in 2019, the outstanding issues could be sorted out during a “transitional standstill” of two to three years
  • Things could go wrong, though, and a “cliff edge” scenario brings the specter of severe dislocation on both sides of the Channel

Two principal scenarios summarize how the Brexit process is likely to develop in the years ahead. The first provides for a relatively “smooth and sensible” Brexit, in the words used by British Prime Minister Theresa May, with collateral damage kept to a minimum. The other can be called a “cliff edge” scenario.

This upbeat script requires six conditions to be met if it is to be realized in practice. First, the British government needs to provide clarity on its goals. Second, a relationship of trust and confidence must be established between the two sides. Third, cabinet discipline is essential to enable Britain’s chief negotiator to speak with authority in the name of the government. Fourth, a coordinated approach must be established between officials working for the prime minister, the chief negotiator and other government departments. Fifth, enhanced administrative capacity should be built up permitting the British authorities to handle the negotiations and to implement the results effectively. And, finally, the EU must show flexibility in its approach to the separation.

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