Introduction: How the British-exit is Impacting the European Union?

AuthorEmmanuel Brunet-Jailly
Publication Date01 April 2021
International Studies
58(2) 133 –149, 2021
© 2021 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/00208817211004030
1 Professor, Jean Monnet Chair, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada.
Corresponding author:
Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly, Jean Monnet Chair, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria,
Victoria, V8W 2Y2 BC, Canada
Introduction: How the
British-exit is Impacting
the European Union?
Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly1
This special issue of International Studies focuses on ‘how the British-exit is
impacting the European Union’. This introduction is a review of the context,
costs and institutional repercussions, as well as the very recent the UK/European
Union trade deal and implications for customs borders. Eight articles then detail
consequences for European Union policies and important trading relationships:
Immigration, Citizenship, Gender, Northern Ireland, Trade and impacts on India,
Canada and Japan.
Brexit, British exit, European Union, impact, cost, custom, trade
This special issue of International Studies focuses on ‘how the British-exit is
impacting the European Union?’ In other words, because so much research has
already been published on the issue of the impact on the UK, this special issue is
not directly looking at consequences on the UK (it does indirectly, however) but
focuses on effects on the European Union. Brexit’s impacts on major trade
partners of the Union, and Brexit’s impact on Union policies are two areas of
particular interest here; will Brexit impact EU integration and intergovernmental
policies across Union policies (Patomäki, 2017; Schimmelfennig, 2018).
Our focus is the Union: The first aspect of this issue is the impact on Union
policies, with a focus on some discussed during the referendum debates and then
during long months of negotiations that may raise new questions about the future
of European Integration: Immigration, Citizenship, Gender, Trade / Market
Policies. A second aspect deals with a few exemplar trading partners in particular
134 International Studies 58(2)
countries with which the EU or the UK has a notable trading tradition: Canada
(CETA), Japan (EPA) and India, and the very particular case of the Republic of
Ireland and Northern Ireland. Those exemplar cases are justified primarily by
their historical relations with the UK, but also because of possible difficulties in
free trade relations in the post-Brexit future with the Union
This introduction reviews briefly the context as well as both costs and
institutional implications, i.e., the Brexit impact on the internal institutional
functioning of the Union and broad governance of policy processes, as well as
costs. Then, the context of the British-exit is set: the (a) Brexit referendum, (b)
economic and budgetary costs to the Union, (c) institutional and decision-making
changes to Union institutions and (d) the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation
Agreement and concurrent new customs border.
Context: A Difficult Relationship?
On 23 June 2016, the UK and Gibraltar electorates went to the poll to cast their
vote in a referendum regarding the UK membership into the European Union. The
two referendum questions were: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member
of the European Union or leave the European Union. Vote only once by putting a
cross in the box next to your choice: remain a member of the European Union;
Leave the European Union’.
The vote was made possible thanks to the European Union referendum act
passed by the UK Parliament of 17 December 2015 (European Union Referendum
Act), and Article 50.1 of the European Union Lisbon Treaty that had opened the
door to such membership exit. The text of the treaty is ‘Any member State may
decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional
requirements’ and Article 50.2 states
A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its
intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union
shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements
for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with
the Union. (The Lisbon Treaty/Treaty of the European Union, 2020)
Union membership had always been a difficult topic of discussion in the UK:
in the Post-Second World War period, it was a conservative, Churchill (1946), at
the University of Zurich, who had suggested ‘we must build a kind of United
States of Europe’. His idea and speech, however, should not be construed as
Churchill’s own desire to see the UK join what was then not yet in the making, but
became the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. Such an idea, of a UK
membership to the European Community, was repeatedly vetoed by French
President Charles de Gaulle. In particular, in 1963, De Gaulle barred the British
entry into what had then expanded to be the European Economic Community
(EEC). At the time, it was also a conservative prime minister, Harold MacMillan
who had managed to open the application process. But De Gaulle vetoed British
membership, again, in 1967.

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