Brexit Institute News

Event Report: Brexit, the terms of Withdrawal and the Framework of future EU-UK Relations

Event Report: Brexit, the terms of Withdrawal and the Framework of future EU-UK Relations

Cliodhna Joyce-Daly (DCU Brexit Institute) and Oliver Garner (European University Institute and DCU Brexit Institute)

On 29 March, 2019, the Brexit Institute hosted the ‘Brexit, the Terms of Withdrawal and the Framework of Future EU-UK Relations’ conference held at Arthur Cox. Brian O’Gorman, managing partner at Arthur Cox, welcomed guests before Mary McAleese (Former President of Ireland) and Daire Keogh (Deputy President, Dublin City University) delivered their keynote speeches. This was followed by four-panel discussions on the themes of the process of Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement, the framework for future relations; and the future challenges. Guest panel members included Monica Bonetti (Radiotelevisione Svizzera), Emily Jones (University of Oxford), Kenneth Armstrong (University of Cambridge), Paul Craig (University of Oxford), Nicol Degli Innocenti (Il Sole 24 Ore), Catherine Barnard (University of Cambridge), John Doyle (Dublin City UniversityEileen Connolly (Dublin City University), Edgar Morgenroth (Dublin City University), Christoph Schult (Der Spiegel), Giorgio Sacerdoti (Bocconi University), Paola Mariani (Bocconi University), Deirdre Curtin (European University Institute), Ben Tonra (University College Dublin), Bjarne Nørum (Kristeligt Dagblad), Sionaidh Douglas-Scott (Queen Mary London), Etain Tannam (Trinity College Dublin) and Federico Fabbrini (Dublin City University). The programme of the event is still available here. The following is a summary of the event.

Opening Keynote speech

Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, spoke of how Theresa May’s deal is the only hope for closure and an orderly Brexit. She also discussed how on both the EU and Irish sides of the negotiations there has been laudable farsightedness, a clear-sightedness, and solidarity that has been very reassuring and important to the future of the European Union.

She also spoke of how the Good Friday Agreement may not have passed if the possibility of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union had been on the table, and of the importance of the assurances and deal secured by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny that “under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and under the terms of the Irish constitution, if partition of this island was ended, then Northern Ireland would seamlessly re-enter the European Union.”

Panel Discussion:

The Process

Panel Chair: Monica Bonetti

Emily Jones focused on the four phases of negotiations with particular criticism of the UK’s current position. She argued the problems are domestic and underlined the issues with poorly planned strategy in May’s government. Kenneth Armstrong demonstrated how and why the transition became possible, with an exploration of the legality of the TP. He states Article 50 is silent on the transition period and argues that the TP is only temporary. This transition period may take up to two years, but the extension to Article 50 has moved the start-point of this period without moving the end-point. To learn more about the transition period, read here (link to Armstrong’s DCU Brexit Institute blog ‘Waiting for Brexit’). Armstrong also gave mention to Article 50 which could potentially impose a disorderly political process. Paul Craig discussed the four defining features of Brexit for the UK. These features included reference to political and economic dilemmas that arise with a hard Brexit; contestation between parliamentary and (non-binding) popular sovereignty; the division of the negotiation of the WA and the negotiation of the future relationship; and the issues with the Northern Ireland backstop and the reasons to avoid a hard border for the peace process and economic flow of goods. He concluded with a final political paradox – hard Brexiteers support the DUP but the utility preferences of the sides are not the same; hard Brexiteers want to leave the EU without a deal whereas the DUP wish to preserve the Union.

The Withdrawal Agreement

Panel Chair: Nicol Degli Innocenti

Edgar Morgenroth discussed the financial settlement and the implications of Brexit for the EU’s future budget. He considered various manners in which this shortfall could be covered either through increased Member State contributions or reduced expenditure. Catherine Barnard brought the issue of Citizens’ Rights, Immigration and the UK’s future trading relationships with the EU to the table. She discussed the policy of the government White Paper on immigration post-Brexit. Barnard spoke about a domestic regime of a Post-Brexit immigration system: free movement of persons will end at the end of the transition period, presuming that there will be one. The settled status scheme will still be open until 6 months after the end of the transition. In a no deal Brexit ‘the European temporary leave to remain’ would be valid for a further 3 years. Nicola degli Innocent, who chaired the panel, concluded that it would be sensible to apply for settled status; as an EU citizen, you have more favourable rights for bringing family members to the UK then if you are a UK national.

The Framework for Future Relations

Panel Chair: Christoph Schult

Ben Tonra discussed the framework for future relations with regard to the foreign, security and defence policy. He highlighted the UK’s involvement in CFSP and the divide between this security cooperation and the economic/trade relationships. Deirdre Curtin presented on the internal dimension of security co-operation between the UK and the EU after Brexit. She detailed that the UK negotiating position has been to maintain access to databases and security agencies at the same level as EU membership. However, it remains to be seen whether this will be possible and what strict conditions the EU may impose upon this participation. John Doyle spoke about the effect of Brexit on Irish unity with regard to Brexit and the Irish border. Paola Mariani and Giorgio Sacerdoti discussed UK trade with the rest of the world post-Brexit from a WTO perspective and its membership in EU FTAs. They argued there could be a potential loophole for UK-EU through trade and therefore need for control between NI and rest of UK and light state controls which would not undermine NI being part of the UK. In questions from the audience, Fabbrini asked would that be accepted under EU law? Craig argued that it is not self-evident that it would be accepted under EU law. For more on this proposal and responses thereto, read here and here.

The Challenges

Panel Chair: Bjarne Nørum

Sionadh Douglas-Scott discussed the future of the UK and the issue of returning competences from the EU to the UK and how these would be distributed at the national level. She detailed the claim of the Scottish government that the EU(W)A 2018 represented a ‘power grab’. She argued that there are pockets of England (major cities) that are unhappy with the current status of Westminister and Brexit. This has the potential to lead to another referendum in Scotland and the real risk that Brexit will lead to the disintegration of the UK. Etain Tannam spoke on the future of UK-Irish relations and argued that Brexit has not caused the problems but exposed the imperfect implementation of the GFA. She stated that Northern Ireland only encouraged the UK to engage after it became a priority for the EU. She emphasized the need for a firm schedule for meetings between the UK and Ireland now that the EU would be lost as a forum for intergovernmental co-operation. Federico Fabbrini closed the panel by shifting the focus to how Brexit will affect the EU, starting with the unity of EU27. He states there is no clear-cut scenario for the future. He argued that the multiple crises of the eurozone, migration, and the rule of law in the EU have challenged unity. This leads to the different possible scenarios of path dependency, differentiation, and variable geometry, and ‘decoupling’ into a core focused on political integration and a periphery focused on market integration. He concluded by arguing that Brexit may operate as a window of opportunity for a grand bargain to reconcile competing visions of Europe as a single market and as a polity.


Cliodhna Joyce-Daly is an intern at the DCU Brexit Institute

Oliver Garner is Ph.D. Researcher at the European University Institute and Visiting Researcher at DCU Brexit Institute