Plenty to ponder in the new Joint Declaration concerning the "Conference on the Future of Europe" - intended to provide momentum for next "big round" of EU reflection, debate and reform. Just a few quick thoughts from me:
1) Political scientists will evaluate this new exercise in deliberative democracy: its benefits / limits. But 1 group whose input isn't specifically flagged up: millions of citizens who reside outside EU territory (migrants or national minorities). How will their voice be heard?
2) agenda is very broadbrush. But striking difference, eg from previous Commission reflection papers? No talk about differentiated integration / two speed Europe etc. Instead: declaration stresses "European solidarity"... Has Brexit dulled taste for "core + periphery" membership?
3) in terms of outputs, declaration is agnostic about potential for primary law reform (as opposed to changes in secondary / soft law etc). Doesn't acknowledge possibility, but doesn't explicitly rule it out. So... will citizens ask for things that only Treaty change can bring?

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More from @mdouganlpool

10 Mar
Johnson Regime claims its unilateral action re NI is not in breach of Protocol, it's just a pragmatic delay of checks, to give more time to prepare, as part of a border regime that was only ever meant to be light touch anyway. Utter rubbish on every front. To be more precise:
1) if UK needed more time to prepare, could easily have had it: Withdrawal Agreement allowed for extension of transition. But Johnson ruled that out, regardless of consquences for NI. Worse: actively misled public / business about what was coming. Problem= entirely created by HMG
2) UK having refused extension, Protocol system came into force. Its rules are crystal clear. As is fact that UK is now breaking them. Those rules can be altered, but only by mutual agreement. As EU & UK did in Dec 2020. But this time, UK isn't seeking to act in concert with EU.
Read 6 tweets
4 Mar
Good question: should European Parliament veto Trade & Cooperation Agreement with UK, in protest at Johnson Regime's latest contempt for obligations freely undertaken under NI Protocol?

Tricky calculation. No clear answer. But on balance, I'd advise "no", for following reasons:
Job of EU in general, and EP in particular, is to uphold European values & defend European interests. Often a complex, difficult task. Especially when principled values & pragmatic interests might pull in different directions. As arguably they do here. Though only arguably.
One hand: EU knows current UK regime is untrustworthy, if not actively antagonistic, even a direct threat to foundations of European cooperation. Punishing disregard of law sends important signal in defence of rules-based international order - even if it comes with a price.
Read 7 tweets
4 Mar
What should we make of the latest developments over NI and the Protocol, i.e. UK’s (second, clear) breach of international legal obligations + escalation of DUP-led agitation through direct loyalist threats to GFA? A few thoughts...
1) Most generous explanation for HMG’s actions? Tories are now more worried about potential for DUP & paramilitary allies to plunge NI into serious disorder, than about immediate legal and diplomatic consequences of UK’s international lawbreaking
2) But more likely explanation (since it fits into clear & established pattern)? Johnson only ever signed Protocol to “get Brexit done” with no real grasp of its implications / sincere intention of implementing it in good faith, so HMG simply places little value on own compliance
Read 9 tweets
9 Feb
Want to understand better why Johnson’s “amazing deal” hasn’t stopped systematic problems in EU-UK trade - and why these aren't just teething issues, but permanent structural problems?

Here are some key points - crucial context to help explain why EU-UK deal is so limited:
1) Trade in goods is much easier to facilitate than trade in services. EU-UK deal concentrates largely on goods, has much less to say on services – even though latter make up vast bulk of UK economy - and is especially poor where goods and services need to combine together.
2) As regards goods, to trade lawfully in the EU, any third country supplier needs to cross 2 main hurdles: their goods must enter into "free circulation"; and their goods must undergo "lawful marketing". If both hurdles are crossed, goods are treated (almost) like EU own-goods.
Read 16 tweets
5 Feb
Lots of questions: what would I do about Northern Ireland and the “Protocol crisis”? Happy to offer a few thoughts as follows:
1) Let's set aside longer term solutions (UK rejoins EU, Irish reunification) & unacceptable outcome (hard border). Only option left= make Protocol work. Above all, that requires trust. Which requires honesty. Which has been sorely lacking from Tories/DUP. But honesty about what?
2) Honesty about fact that NI’s problems are directly determined by choices about overall EU-UK relationship. UK closer to EU = problems diminish. UK further from EU = problems amplify. Johnson chose a very Hard Brexit. So problems facing NI were inevitably going to be serious.
Read 13 tweets
4 Feb
Gove's letter to Commission about NI Protocol is deeply insulting - worthy successor to Trump's truth-twisting method of treating international diplomacy with same contempt & dishonesty as domestic politics. But cut through the propaganda & what do we learn? Voila, short thread:
1) Brexit was always going to cause serious problems for NI - as UK parliamentary committees and myriad experts predicted. But Tories and DUP simply lied their way through the entire withdrawal process / negotiations - claiming those problems didn't exist / had easy solutions.
2) When reality finally hit home, ie Tory Hard Brexit threatened hard border & therefore GFA, May sought to minimise the damage. But ERG, DUP et al did everything they could to destroy her solution. Then PM Johnson stabbed DUP in back by imposing alternative: the current Protocol
Read 15 tweets

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