Managed divergence of regulation after Brexit

Series Title
Series Details 22.02.18 (and periodically updated)
Publication Date 22/02/2018
Content Type

Brexit meant that, for the first time in 40 years, the UK would have to renegotiate its trade and economic relationship with its largest trading partner - European countries within the European Union and the wider European Economic Area.

As the EU-UK negotiations continued with Phase Two in February 2018, focusing on the transition period (called the implementation period by the UK) from March 2019 for approximately two years, the UK wanted substantive discussions to begin on negotiating its future trade relationship with the EU.

However, the discussions could only begin after the United Kingdom Cabinet had agreed on the detail of the relationship desired - and this proved difficult due to the divisions within the Conservative Party on Brexit.

A special meeting of the 'Brexit war cabinet' at Chequers on the 22 February 2018 took place at which Theresa May was said to have secured an agreement with her colleagues concerning what the UK would ask for in a future trading relationship with the EU.

No formal announcement was published after the Chequers meeting, but news sources on the 23 February 2018 suggested that an agreement had been reached within the Brexit war cabinet on a strategy of 'managed divergence' for future UK-EU relations. Theresa May was due to clarify more in a speech on the 2 March 2018.

European Council President after an informal EU27 meeting on the 23 February 2018 said that the UK managed divergence negotiating position was based on 'pure illusion ... there can be no cherry picking and no single market à la carte'.

This approach was echoed in the European Commission Draft Withdrawal Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community issued as a Position Paper on the 28 February 2018.

This Explainer focused on what was meant by the concept of managed divergence.

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Related Links
CAPX, 28.02.18: How long will the EU’s Brexit inflexibility last?
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 27.02.18: Three Reasons the EU Will Reject the ‘Brexit War Cabinet’ Proposal
CBI, 2018: Customs union: The facts (et al)
ESO: Find further information on Brexit and Customs Union
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
Institute for Government, 2017: Trade after Brexit. Options for the UK’s relationship with the EU (et al)
Politico, 23.02.18: Theresa May secures Brexit war Cabinet backing for ‘managed divergence’ in future EU relationship
Politico, 23.02.18: Donald Tusk: UK Brexit position is ‘pure illusion’
BBC News, 23.02.18: Donald Tusk: UK Brexit plans 'pure illusion'

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