Stefaan De Rynck
As a close aide to Michel Barnier, Stefaan De Rynck had a ringside seat in the Brexit negotiations. In this frank and uncompromising account, De Rynck demonstrates how the EU-27’s unity held firm while the UK vacillated throughout, changing negotiators, prime ministers, their aims and tactics. From the mood in the room to the technical discussions, he gives an unvarnished account of the process and obstacles that shaped the final deal.
This book seeks to dispel some of the myths and spin that became indelibly linked to the Brexit process, such as the EU always compromising at the last minute or Germany having a vested interest in accommodating the UK. May’s deal – rejected three times by the UK parliament – is shown to have been a concession by the EU. Contrary to expectations, Remain MPs never received support from Barnier despite their numerous visits to the Berlaymont building. Attempts by the UK to run down the clock and issue ultimatums to force the EU to acquiesce had no effect on the course of events, but it was in fact easier to negotiate with Johnson than with May.
De Rynck tells the EU’s side of the story. Barnier’s team were successful in protecting EU interests, in fulfilling the mandate defined by 27 national governments and still agreeing different forms of Brexit with two UK prime ministers. Brexit was not an EU fight with the UK. It was a fight to get a deal that worked for the EU.
Part I: Uniting the EU (June 2016–December 2017) 1. No negotiation without notification 2. More glue for uniting the European Union 3. Brexit Bill: show EU the money 4. Protecting citizens’ rights: which rights, which citizens? Concluding thoughts on the unity of the EU
Part II: On the elusive search for a bespoke relationship 5. The transition period (aka “vassal state”) 6. The Barnier staircase from Norway to Canada: it is cold outside of the EU 7. Theresa May wants a common rulebook on UK terms 8. The Salzburg summit, sound but no music Concluding thoughts: Mütti Merkel is tougher than the rest
Part III: The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (June 2017–December 2020): identity politics and EU rules 9. The origins of the Backstop for Northern Ireland 10. Theresa May’s Pyrrhic victory 11. Boris Johnson meets Brexit reality 12. Johnson agrees to customs checks in the Irish Sea Concluding thoughts: did the EU fail to understand Northern Ireland?
Part IV: 2020: the journey towards the meaning of Brexit 13. Frosty negotiations on a new relationship 14. The UK leaving Global Europe: strategic myopia of the EU? 15. The level playing field: EU preparations (2016–19) 16. The rollercoaster ride to a level playing field (2020) Conclusion
Stefaan De Rynck was a senior advisor to Michel Barnier, the Brexit Negotiator for the European Union. He has worked as an EU civil servant on financial regulation, the single market, transport policy, sustainable urban development and on EU Treaty changes. He has a PhD in political and social sciences from the European University Institute in Florence and teaches at the Public Governance Institute of the University of Leuven in Belgium.