Since last June, the political debate has been almost exclusively about No.10’s Brexit strategy and the views of various UK bodies and politicians – almost a kind of “parochial Brexit” – instead of what’s happening across the Channel in 27 of the 28 countries taking part in the talks.
Just a glance towards the continent reveals the EU27 is divided over future integration (whether to do it at different speeds or do it at all), how to respond to US trade policy, Russian aggression in the Balkans, Greek finances, immigration and managing the Eurozone. As these issues unravel, they will influence the Brexit deal – as well as UK voters’ eagerness to reach an agreement.
In early 2019, when they see trouble brewing in the EU, British voters might begin to ask why they are still members of a club three years after voting to leave. Contrary to some expectations, demands for a quick Brexit could get louder, not more muted. If this happens, Whitehall will need its private sector partners’ expertise (and especially technical know-how) to expedite Brexit arrangements.