Brexit—Implications for UK and European Sanctions Policy - Global Trade Magazine
  October 11th, 2016 | Written by

Brexit—Implications for UK and European Sanctions Policy

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  • Until Brexit, UK and EU sanctions policies were joined together.
  • The UK is still a major contributor of information and capability to the EU sanctions machine.
  • The EU and UK are likelier to maintain a consistent sanctions posture than they are to split.

A new report from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy outlines implications of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union in relation to the execution of economic sanctions policies in both regions.

Among the findings of the report, until Brexit, UK and EU sanctions policies were joined together and had an impact both in the selection and the execution of decisions by both. The UK was (and, for the time being, is) a major contributor of information and capability to the EU sanctions machine. How the EU will adapt to its absence on more prosaic, practical terms remains to be seen.

Notwithstanding some speculation to the contrary, the EU and UK are likelier to maintain a consistent sanctions posture than they are to split, at least in the near to mid-term. There is some chance of a long-term shift in EU and UK perspectives on sanctions, depending on how the respective self interests of the EU and UK also shift in the future.

What is more likely to change in the future is not the desire of the EU or UK to impose sanctions in response to bad behavior, but rather the tools to be used.

The report recommend that the EU and the UK should build into whatever succeeds the UK’s formal involvement in the EU the capacity for coordination of sanctions actions. “Even if the UK and EU retain separate decision-making apparatus for sanctions enforcement,” the report says, “having some kind of formal role for one another in advising the creation of sanctions rules would help to preserve some of the benefits that existed prior to Brexit, particularly harmonization.”

The report also recommends that the United States should formalize its various efforts at sanctions coordination through the creation of likeminded coalitions on particular issues. These gatherings would not replace the need for UK-EU interaction, but they would help create a platform for this interaction while at the same time reducing some of the tensions that arise between the United States and its normal sanctions partners. “Taken in combination with other mechanisms for UK-EU sanctions coordination (such as the presence of France as a permanent member of the UN Security Council alongside the UK),” the report noted, “such a likeminded coalition would at a minimum help to smooth the transition that is inevitable as Brexit takes place.”


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