Experts debate Brexit: steady as she goes or heading for the rocks?

The Senior European Experts Group (SEE) and Institute of Contemporary European Studies (iCES) last night convened at Regent’s University London to discuss Brexit negotiations so far and what might lie ahead in a potentially turbulent time for the United Kingdom.

The negotiations have passed their half-way point. After six months of often difficult negotiations, the outlines of a withdrawal agreement were reached last December and the parties are now discussing the critical issue of the future UK-EU relationship.

Expert panel discusses Brexit at Regent's University London

Chaired by Vice Chancellor of Regent's Aldwyn Cooper, the expert panel, consisting of Lord Jay of Ewelme, Dr Denis MacShane, Sir Alan Dashwood QC and Jacqueline Minor, debated the progress so far and considered what lies in store for the negotiations going forward.

Questions were posed such as; how have the negotiations gone so far? Have they been a triumph for the UK or is the EU shaping the agenda? Given the economic importance to the UK maintaining easy access to the largest market for its exports, what are the prospects for a good deal that protects jobs and prosperity in the UK? And what are the implications for the rest of the EU?

As Lord Jay, Former Head of the British Diplomatic Service, pointed out how fitting it was that the seminar took place on the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, he discussed progress made, albeit seemingly minor.

'Negotiations haven't been easy so far but agreement has been met on the three issues that both sides agree are key - this should be seen as a good thing.

'There will be some kind of UK-EU free trade agreement but what that looks like - and where services fits into it - remains to be seen.'

One of the newest SEE members and former EU Director Jackie Minor added that the Brexit agreement will be bespoke: 'It will be an unusual agreement because it seeks divergence over convergence. It will be a minimalist offer the EU will make to avoid confronting the most contentious issues.'

Dennis MacShane, a former UK Minister of Europe, argued that the Brexit ‘negotiations’ are not that at all.

'There are no Brexit negotiations because "negotiation" implies that there is a happy halfway house - and there isn't.

'We are now having the debate about the EU that we should have had before the EU referendum.

'The parliamentary arithmetic is very interesting - where are all the Conservative MPs not accounted for in the Brexiteers? The politics of Brexit are going to continue for a very long time.'

The next seminar in the quarterly series will be held on Wednesday 18 April. Further details will follow in due course.

Read the paper prepared for the seminar between Regent’s University London and the Senior European Experts group; it is being published as a contribution to debate.