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OK I've got room in me for one more thread tonight before I sit down with a glass of wine and my crochet. A few months ago I posted this thread where I described the steps taken for the EU to conclude agreements with non-EU countries. 1/
I'd like to expand a bit on the 'mandate' part of the process. This is where the Member States give their instructions to the Commission to negotiate an agreement on their behalf. It has the force of law - they adopt 'negotiating directives'. 2/
Whenever I go into a negotiating session, the one thing I always make sure I have with me is the mandate. It tells me what I must include, and tells me how much wiggle room I have. It's the blueprint for any agreement. 3/
The mandate is a classified document and obviously I'm not going to share details here, but let me give a flavour of how it reads. For example: "The Agreement should include provisions on consumer protection with the aim of approximating [country's] legislation with the EU's." 4/
(NB that's not a direct quote from my mandate and I have no idea what's in the UK-EU mandate, but it's the kind of language that one finds in such documents. It will say which areas should be covered, and what the EU's objective is.) 5/
The process of procuring a mandate is very political and often difficult. Member States and other stakeholders will fight to have their interests reflected. Once it's finalised, it's pretty much set in stone. 6/
When the Commission comes back with an initialled agreement, it will justify it against the mandate, and the Member States will judge it against the mandate. What I'm saying is the mandate is absolutely key. 7/
To repeat, I don't know what's in the EU-UK future relationship mandate, but we can all make educated guesses. For example, it's a given that a level playing field will feature prominently. Ditto fish. 8/
So when the UK whines that the EU is being intransigent, or inflexible, it really ought to know what it's up against - after all, it was a member for over 40 years, and a real stickler for the Commission respecting its mandates. 9/
Getting Barnier to negotiate beyond his mandate is a big ask. (This is a massive understatement.) He certainly won't do it in the normal negotiation phase. What he could do is go back to the Council and say that he cannot deliver an agreement within the existing mandate. 10/
It would then be open to the Member States to reopen the mandate and adjust it. But think about it: why would they? And in what way? Are they going to water it down to give the UK what it wants? Why? All the politics that led to the original mandate are still there. 11/
To play this game, the UK would have to be very confident that the EU member states will agree a new, and weaker, mandate. Given the UK's total failure to read Brussels, and EU capitals, so far, I think this is unlikely. 12/
In the end it boils down to a game of chicken where the UK thinks that the EU (collectively and each member state individually) are so desperate for a deal that they will give ground on the delicately balanced mandate they agreed amongst themselves. 13/
Why would the EU do that? What does the UK have to offer that the EU and each member state so desperately needs? Even the most affected (no more than four or five of the 27) won't sacrifice sacred cows (eg single market, environmental protection, state aids). 14/
EU diplomats are experienced & capable of long-term thinking. They can see the current state of UK politics. What earthly reason would they have to cut a bad deal with this current government that, so far from cultivating good will, has turned bad faith into performance art? 15/
I am not a neutral observer. Nor am I a gambler. But I really think you would have to be stark raving bonkers to put any money on the EU changing its mandate to accommodate Britain's wish to ditch the Political Declaration that it signed up to in October last year. 16/16
(The crochet’s going great btw, I’m making that lovely colourful blanket that looks like octagonal tiles, four down twelve to go)
Addendum/correction: thanks to @pdersjant for alerting/reminding me that the mandate for the EU-UK negotiations has actually been published by the EU (see tweet 4 in thread).…
AFAIK this is pretty unusual - it’s rare for negotiating directives to be published even *after* the agreement is done. So, an interesting tactic which to my mind supports my argument that member states are very unlikely to amend the mandate.…
You might say the EU has nailed its colours to the mast.
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