After the UK’s EU referendum: redefining relations between the two Europes

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Series Details No.399, July 2016
Publication Date 04/07/2016
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The vote in favour of leaving the EU will probably entail protracted negotiations over the terms of the separation and of the UK's future relations with the European Union. In this context, a rationalisation and clarification of various levels of integration is needed, in particular regarding the relations between the "two Europes", i.e. the euro zone and the single market.

The positions expressed after the referendum result provide some indication on the future terms of negotiation. On the one hand in the UK, a major part of the political class (including within the Conservative Party) and the economic-financial sector want to continue enjoying the benefits of the internal market. On the other hand, the European in EU27 composition indicated that access to the single market would necessarily mean accepting each of the four freedoms.

This raises two issues for the supporters of "Leave" in the UK: first, accepting the freedom movement of people is seen as problematic given the importance placed on immigration in the campaign; second, the acceptance of the rules of the internal market without taking part in the decision-making process would further reduce British democratic control over European decisions, thereby eroding the sovereignty that they wished to recover. Some observers deduce from this that the UK will finally reconsider the referendum result, others that the next British government might relinquish full access to the internal market.

It is however possible, and even probable, that the next British government will explore all of the options that could allow it to find a solution to what appears to be an impossibility theorem. Most of the Member States will also be interested, for various reasons, both economic and politico-strategic, to keep the UK involved as closely as possible with the European Union.

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ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union

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