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Why Brexit negotiations are reminiscent of James Dean

Feb 18, 2019

Why Brexit negotiations are reminiscent of James Dean


The hardliners in the British Parliament continue to make things difficult for the UK Prime Minister. An agreement remains elusive as positions remain uncompromising. Read here what James Dean has to do with this and why we are heading towards a no-deal scenario.

For months, there has been no progress in the dispute over Britain's exit from the European Union. Last Thursday, the House of Commons rejected another draft proposal by the British Prime Minister, thereby obliterating May's credibility in Brussels. Concluding a deal in the foreseeable future seems to be elusive while time is running out fast – the day when the UK is set to leave the EU is only one and a half months away.

It looks near impossible that Brussel would make more concessions. Each and every one of the 27 heads of government would have to agree to renegotiate a deal that seemed to be already made. May, on the other hand, will not score any points in the Commons with new proposals. The hardliners fundamentally oppose any agreement: they want a hard break and none of May’s concessions will change that.

Both sides are sitting on the fence, waiting for the 29th of March. In game theory, this scenario is called the chicken game. If you have seen the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean, you might have guessed already where this is going. In the end, it is nothing but a test of courage.

Neither side is willing to give in

So we have two cars headed towards each other on collision course at high speed. Whoever swerves is considered a coward and has automatically lost the game. If neither swerves, both players have passed the test but lost their lives.

This is exactly what we are seeing in Brexit negotiations: neither side wants to back down and hopes for the opposite side to cave in. May continues to believe that the EU will not risk a no-deal deal scenario and make concessions in the end. To help May save face, Brussels could tone down some of the wording of the agreement or put a time limit on the backstop. But even such concessions would likely be torpedoed by the Tory hardliners. In summary, negotiations have already failed.

Brexit has been the brainchild of reckless populists from the start

I suspect that the UK will crash out of the EU without a concrete deal. The British will then claim that this was exactly what they intended and that things will not be as bad as the doomsayers have painted them. One will have to tighten the belt a little but then everything will be fine... Politicians in Brussels will respond arrogantly that they knew Brexit was a bad idea from the beginning. Negotiating an agreement looks very different.

In my opinion, Brexit was recklessly triggered by the then Prime Minister Cameron. At the time, no one discussed the negotiation process with all its implications, including the border with Northern Ireland. I also think the EU should not give in - it is the British that have a problem. Contrary to public opinion, I think that the EU will emerge stronger from the process. The EU has shown unity, which will serve as a good example for future decisions.

Records of an interview of XING.

Sabrina Keßler from Xing News and Matthias Schranner (CEO Schranner AG)