Daniel Gueguen

As I have said 1,000 times, Brexit is a technical issue, not a political one. We see this with the headache of the Irish border. Not re-establishing a physical border is a political goal; failing to do it is a technical obstacle.

Already in December 2016, an in-depth conversation with one of the EU negotiators left me feeling uneasy about the Brexit-WTO connection. The message was: “We’ll see about that later”. Six months later, Jean-Luc Demarty, Director General of DG TRADE, confirmed at a public conference that EU-UK trade talks will take place during the transition period and that the UK will have to follow the methodology imposed by the EU-27.

This forgets that the UK and EU are both WTO members and therefore, in line with Article 24 of GATT, they will have to negotiate agreements with the WTO before the entry into force of the commercial part of any Brexit accord. Nothing seems to be ready on either side, and let’s remember that the WTO requires unanimity!

To take one specific example, will the British be able to maintain the benefit of the special safeguard clause, obtained by the EU during the Uruguay Round, that protects the EU market from sugar imports? There are countless questions like these, but neither the EU nor the UK nor stakeholders appear to be concerned about it. In the current Transatlantic context, the reaction of the US will be interesting.

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