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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > December 2016 > The Brexit Brokers

The Brexit Brokers

Meet the men who will deal the cards that could seal Britain’s fate—on Europe’s behalf UTA STAIGER AND NICHOLAS WRIGHT

When Theresa May invokes Article 50, the formal trigger on Britain’s exit from the European Union, multiple and multi-layered negotiations will begin. So far, the EU has maintained a united front on Brexit—“no negotiation before notification.” But once the real discussions begin, facing Britain across the table will not be a single person, but a set of different actors with different roles, each under different pressures.

Some of the faces we already know, like Angela Merkel of Germany, and (at least for the moment) François Hollande of France. But as Britain demands a previously unavailable mix of national immigration control and international trading rights, the day-to-day discussion will be managed by a trio of less familiar names, appointed by the three main EU institutions to hold the Brexit ring.

So what do we know about the three “Brexit leads” who could ultimately determine the UK’s fate? What formal powers do they have? How will they navigate the fiendish mix of institutional and national interests that must be respected in any outcome? And what attitude will these people, who are already balancing so many competing concerns, adopt towards anything that sounds like British special pleading?

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In Prospect’s December issue: Sam Tanenhaus argues that Donald Trump was born to be a campaigning demagogue, but will he be too bored to rule? Ed Miliband and Michael Gove debate whether parliament should have a binding vote on the terms of Brexit and Christian Wolmar examines the driverless car delusion. Also in this issue: James Harkin examines the situation in Syria, focussing on Raqqa Ruth Dudley Edwards explores the battle in Ireland since the UK’s decision to leave the EU—will the border become a division? And Michael White looks at the life of Alan Johnson, the Labour MP and former postie.