First Brexit, then Bregrets. Time for Breconciliation?

By Lionel Laurent

16 Feb 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

High-profile voices in the U.K. advocate for a fast return to the EU, though it's not clear the EU wants Britain back. Bloomberg's Lionel Laurent argues that an incremental approach is more realistic.

In the heat of Brexit talks in 2018, a frustrated British official asked European Union negotiator Michel Barnier's team: "Imagine our country was not there and suddenly surfaced from the seabed and installed itself at your shores. What relationship would you ideally want with us?"

The question, relayed in a new book by Barnier aide Stefaan De Rynck, is being asked again three years after the Union Jack was lowered in Brussels - though this time with a friendlier undertone. The threat of a U.K.-E.U. trade war over Northern Ireland is receding amid the real war in Ukraine; there's even hope of a breakthrough on this politically sensitive issue as early as next week. Both sides are making an effort: A U.K. humbled by the chaotic premiership of Liz Truss and the economic costs of Brexit is engaging seriously with an E.U. shaken by war at its eastern frontier and an energy crunch.

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