The UK will remain a full member of the EU until withdrawal negotiations are completed. In this post Nick Wright explores the roles that Britain might play in EU decision making once Article 50 has been triggered. He considers three possibilities – malign influence, lame duck and honest broker – and concludes that at the moment the second seems most likely, although elements of the other two may also be seen along the way.
Britain remains a full member of the EU until the completion of withdrawal negotiations. It is important to re-state this obvious point because, regardless of the Brexit process, the EU continues to function and therefore the UK continues to have a say (and a vote) on all EU decision-making via the Council of Ministers. The question then is how that will work: how will the dynamics of ‘normal life’ in the Council interact with the Brexit process?
The Council, which agrees all EU legislation in conjunction with the European Parliament, is not a single, unitary body. It exists in a number of ministerial formations covering the range of policy areas dealt with at EU level and is dependent on a complex sub-structure: most policy is decided at the ambassadorial level in the two committees of the Permanent Representatives (Corepers I & II) and the Political and Security Committee. Supporting these are dozens of working parties and technical groups which deal with specific policy questions, ranging from highly technical regulations relating to the Single Market to the implementation of sanctions against Russia.
All member states are represented and involved in continuous negotiations and decision-making across all issues and at every level, and the UK is no exception.
So what happens once Article 50 is triggered? Will the UK still try to influence Council decision-making at all levels? Will it be able to, given the pressure the Brexit negotiations will place on its administrative and diplomatic resources? And how will the EU-27 respond to British efforts to continue to play a role? To help us think about these questions, three simple scenarios are mapped out below.