Judy Asks: Does May need Merkel for a Brexit deal?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
18 October 2017

No, Theresa May needs to impose some discipline and unity on her own troops in order to achieve a workable deal. On the Article 50 divorce settlement, the two sides are close to agreement. May will have to be more explicit on taking responsibility for outstanding financial obligations, such as contingent liabilities and pensions. That means facing down hard-line Brexiteer ministers. Then the EU will talk about transition and trade.

The bigger problem is the future EU-UK relationship. May and her ministers have not yet worked out what they want, but they are heading toward demanding a bespoke deal that is like the EU-Canada FTA but much better in terms of access to parts of the single market for services. They are in for a shock. The EU will not allow the UK to “cherry-pick” parts of the single market - even if it offers money and accepts ECJ rulings. Merkel and most EU leaders see the single market as an all-or-nothing package. The German chancellor takes a hard line and will not ride to the British prime minister’s rescue. May needs to forge a strategy for the future that is based on reality, and then start to lower the public’s expectations on what can be achieved.

Charles Grant is director of the Centre for European Reform.