Brussels economic think tank Bruegel, chaired by former president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, has issued a paper (see here) suggesting that the UK would remain part of Europe’s Single Market while introducing migration controls for EU citizens after Brexit. The “Continental Partnership” would create a two-tier structure for Europe, made up of an EU core that would interact with non-EU countries such as Norway, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK (post-Brexit).

Aim of the Continental Partnership

The Continental Partnership aims to sustain deep economic integration, fully participating in goods, services, capital mobility and some temporary labour mobility, whilst excluding freedom of movement of workers and political integration. The think tank has summarised four factors that the Continental Partnership should involve:

  1. Participation in a series of selected common policies consistent with access to the Single Market. In return for participation in the Single Market, the Continental Partnership members would have to accept the enforcement measures and jurisprudence that safeguards the relevant freedoms of the Single Market;
  2. Participation in a new Continental Partnership system of inter-governmental decision making and enforcement (see below);
  3. Contribution to the EU budget. This would be required as the EU budget constitutes an essential element of the integrated economic space; and
  4. Close cooperation on foreign policy, security and possibly, defence matters. The reasoning behind this is that no European nation state can manage disruptions such as turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, or Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military incursion into Eastern Ukraine, alone. The think tank has proposed that the Continental Partnership should emerge as a forum and active participant in foreign security and defence policy, where UK’s position as one of the two permanent European members of the UN Security Council and as one of the current EU members able to project forces overseas, will allow it to remain a crucial partner on these matters. The two-tier structure would include a (i) an inner circle constituting the EU with political aims and supranational constitutional structures, and (ii) a wider circle around the EU that would not share the EU’s supranational character, except where common enforcement mechanisms are needed to protect the homogeneity of the single market.

Structure of the Continental Partnership

The two-tier structure would include a (i) an inner circle constituting the EU with political aims and supranational constitutional structures, and (ii) a wider circle around the EU that would not share the EU’s supranational character, except where common enforcement mechanisms are needed to protect the homogeneity of the single market.

The think tank has proposed that a Continental Partnership Council should be created for the Continental Partnership countries to meet, and in which EU institutions would participate. At this level, the UK would continue to participate in the discussions and negotiations of Single Market regulation and other policies. The Council would not be able to pass EU legislation but the partners would be involved in the Council readings of draft EU legislation and would have a right to propose amendments. In areas that concern the Continental Partnership, the Council would deliberate the legislative proposals of EU law before they are formally passed in the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. This would ensure that positions expressed by non-EU members could be taken into account throughout the legislative process and in the final decision. The Continental Partnership partners would not have veto rights over the EU decision but they would be closely involved in law-making at the intergovernmental level of the Council.

Conclusions

Ultimately, the think tank has concluded that policymakers in the UK and the EU will face the political choice between either pursuing the Continental Partnership structure, or establishing a free-trade arrangement.