This post introduces the ‘Brexit Negotiations Series’, a series of posts based on contributions to the ‘Negotiating Brexit’ conference that took place in Oxford on 17 March 2017. 

Brexit is on its way. The formal withdrawal process under Article 50 TFEU was initiated on 29 March 2017. The UK and the EU now have two years in which to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, and will seek at the same time to pursue a closely-linked deal over the terms of their future relationship. By mid-2019, the UK will probably have left the EU.

Brexit will have fundamental political, economic and legal consequences – for Britain, Europe and, indeed, the world. These consequences will be shaped by the precise features of the agreement that is to be negotiated. These negotiations will be complex, involving multiple parties and issues. At this point, possible configurations for the UK’s future relationship with the EU appear to include: (i) ‘Hard’ Brexit: the UK leaves the single market and imposes controls on immigration from the EU. The terms of market access for goods and services have to be negotiated. Wide-ranging trade negotiations of this sort normally take many years to complete; (ii) ‘Harder’ Brexit: if no agreement is reached on the terms of the future relationship, then only the WTO framework will restrict the mutual imposition of tariffs; and (iii) ‘Hardest’ Brexit: the Article 50 period comes to an end without any agreement having been reached regarding either the future relationship or even the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. (A fourth option, ‘soft’ Brexit, under which the UK remains part of the single market, most likely as a member of the EEA, has apparently been ruled out by the UK).

On 17 March 2017, Professor John Armour and I organised a conference at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, on ‘Negotiating Brexit’. The conference brought together leading academics, practitioners and policymakers who are involved in the ensuing Brexit negotiations. Their unifying perspective was the interests of the UK and how to best realize them in these negotiations. The discussions were divided into three sections: the first (‘Brexit Stakes’) was concerned with what is at stake for the UK. The focus here was on crucial policy fields such as financial services, corporate activity, and legal (dispute resolution) services. In the second section (‘Brexit Analytics’), the negotiating framework of Article 50 TFEU, political constraints on the negotiations and the WTO framework as an outside option were analyzed. Finally, in a third section (‘Brexit Process’) negotiation specialists and mediators discussed negotiation strategies and process design/management for ‘making Brexit a success’ – or at least avert a lose-lose outcome.

Contributions to the conference will be published in the next weeks in a special ‘Brexit Negotiation Series’ of the Oxford Business Law Blog. The posts will be published roughly in the order of the conference contributions, grouped together by conference themes. The start is made today by a post based on a keynote delivered by Professor Clemens Fuest from the University of Munich/CESifo.


Horst Eidenmüller is the Freshfields Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Oxford.