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Research Report

Brexit:: Strategic Consequences for Europe A Scenario Study

Peter van Ham
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2016
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 27
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-6)

    The United Kingdom (UK) is set to have a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether or not to remain in the European Union (EU). This so-called In/Out referendum (which could be held as early as June 2016) may well result in Britain’s exit from the EU, colloquially known as ‘Brexit’.¹ In January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his plan to hold a referendum, meanwhile putting pressure on the EU to change the way in which it works, or at least to alter the rules governing the United Kingdom’s EU membership. Cameron stated in November 2015: ‘This...

  2. (pp. 7-11)

    After the successful ‘Leave’ campaign, David Cameron has chosen to quit as Britain’s prime minister, rather than spend his remaining years in Number 10 negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU. After a major Cabinet reshuffle, the new prime minister is an outspoken and committed Eurosceptic who is determined to make Brexit a success. Although disappointed with the choice of the British electorate, the UK’s 27 EU partners have reacted calmly and respectfully. Following Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the UK has notified its decision to withdraw from the EU, which takes effect once a withdrawal arrangement...

  3. (pp. 12-17)

    The UK’s new Tory prime minister indicates that s/he is pragmatic about cooperating with ‘Europe’ on all fronts, and is even willing to engage on foreign policy, security and defence matters when British interests are served. This is widely considered the best way forward, also because institutional and diplomatic modalities already allow third states to participate (under certain conditions) in intra-EU policy processes. Although the UK is open to allowing pragmatic ties with CSDP initiatives (including missions and operations), there is a clear preference for developing defence cooperation on a bilateral basis. Initially, continental Europe held back on London’s proposals...

  4. (pp. 18-20)

    Brexit has offered the UK the opportunity to resume its role as an independent sovereign state that is no longer the subject of EU law, no longer paying £9.5 billion to the EU’s budget, and no longer shackled to the EU’s Common Commercial Policy but at liberty to sign (free-) trade agreements with the whole world.25 Brexit’s benefits are not only significant for the UK, but also for the EU’s CSDP. The scenario of an ‘Unleashed Continental Europe’ supposes that the EU will take the opportunity of Brexit to combine existing plans to develop a full-fledged Political Union with a...

  5. (pp. 21-22)

    These scenarios come with several caveats, most notably that Brexit may not occur after all. One thing, however, is undisputed: the UK In/Out referendum will be a major event that influences the strategic course of the EU, as well as (one may argue, ipso facto) the European continent. In some scenario studies it is possible to extrapolate and to take similar previous cases as examples to lay out future trajectories. All of this is not possible when thinking through Brexit’s strategic impact on Europe. The In/Out referendum and (a possible) Brexit are without precedent and hence remain shrouded in uncertainty....