The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Why Brexit Should Be Accompanied by Irexit (Ireland exit)

Ireland’s political Establishment is only now realising that Brexit really does mean Brexit and that the case for an accompanying Irexit is overwhelming. Irish opinion is likely to move in this direction over the coming two years and UK policy-makers should encourage that.

Dr Anthony Coughlan

22nd February 2017

For forty years from 1973 the Republic was a major recipient of EU money through the Common Agricultural Policy. Since 2014 the Republic has become a net contributor to the EU Budget. In future money from Brussels will be Irish taxpayers’ money recycled. This removes the principal basis of Irish europhilia, official and unofficial.

If Dublin seeks to remain in the EU when the UK leaves it will have to pay more to the EU budget to help compensate for the loss of Britain’s net contribution. A bonus of leaving along with the UK on the other hand is that it would enable the Republic to get its sea-fisheries back - the value of annual fish-catches by foreign boats in Irish waters being a several-times multiple of whatever money Ireland got from the EU over the years.

As regards trade and investment, the Republic sends 61% by value of its goods exports and 66% of its services exports to countries that are outside the continental EU26, mostly English-speaking. The USA is the most important market for its foreign-owned firms and the UK for its indigenous ones. Economically and psychologically it is closer to Boston than Berlin and to Britain than Germany.

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What it will look like: How leaving the EU and the Single Market can be made to work for Britain

The PM, Theresa May, must focus on eliminating tariffs and clearing the EU's burdensome barriers to trade

17th January 2017

The Bruges Group report What it Will Look Like: How leaving the EU and the Single Market can be made to work for Britain details the potential challenges the UK faces when it leaves the EU. The report also explains how these problems can be addressed by Her Majesty's Government, ahead of Theresa May's planned Brexit speech on Tuesday 17th January 2017.

Only by knowing the potential pitfalls can the Prime Minister hope to mitigate and eliminate the EU’s burdensome trade rules and bureaucracy. The UK can then take advantage of the global opportunities that await us.

Drawing upon decades of research and analysis, this report clearly explains how:

  • There is no such thing as a truly 'Hard Brexit' - but there are significant obstacles.
  • A UK-EU trade agreement, focused on tariff reduction and clearing customs, could take just 18 months to complete.
  • The UK's bargaining position is stronger than many commentators believe.


This report deals with the top ten issues of withdrawal from the EU. It explains that specific, easily reached agreements on the mechanics of trade in both goods and services will not only resolve any problems that may arise when exporting to the EU but such arrangements will also protect and enhance our trade with the EU.

Theresa May needs to address in her EU speech the solutions outlined in this report. Brexit negotiators can draw on the findings of this new Bruges Group study which sets out a bold vision for Brexit and how exiting the EU, and even the single market and the customs union, can be made to work.

Failing to Hold Back the Incoming Tide

How EU law has supremacy over national law and why attempts at reform will never succeed.

1st June 2016

The revolutionary nature of what the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has achieved in establishing EU legal supremacy cannot be overstated. The story of the emergence of the supremacy of EU law is a story of audacious expansion of legal authority enabling the CJEU, in the words of the scholar Karen Alter, to effectively become the ‘master of the Treaties’. The CJEU has become ‘master’ by awarding itself considerable latitude over the interpretation of the Treaties and the balance of competences between Member States and the EU. However, it has not done this entirely on its own. At different times the acquiescence of the Member States has been vital.

Achieving and consolidating legal supremacy has required collusion in the guise of new treaties. The Member States agreed a long series of treaty revisions that have:

Increased significantly the range of competences of the EU offering much more scope to integrationist judges (with the help of litigants and interest groups) to develop their doctrines further and increase their power;
and
Altered dramatically the decision-making processes within the EU, instigating a sustained shift from unanimity in the Council of Ministers to routine use of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), and from a situation where the Council of Ministers was the senior decision making body on most policy issues to a system of co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the Parliament on the vast majority of policy issues.

The Prime Minister David Cameron suggested in a speech to Chatham House in late 2015 that as an accompaniment to his re-negotiation package he would like to introduce reforms which ‘…uphold… [the]… constitution and sovereignty’ and which protect the ‘…essential constitutional freedoms…’ of the UK. This paper has attempted to show that this domestic part of his EU reform agenda is, like his re-negotiation, likely to be a damp squib, achieve very little of substance and fall short of his own stated ambitions for the policy. In reality, raising the possibility of domestic legal reforms to uphold the constitution, sovereignty and protect essential constitutional freedoms is marketing and political spin, nothing more substantive that that. Empty domestic reform does however, nicely complement the vacuity of the claim that Cameron has achieved reform in the EU. Cameron’s reforms are likely to be nothing more than rhetoric and spin.

The UK’s liabilities to the financial mechanisms of the European Union

The UK’s potential exposure to the EU is over £80 billion.

Bob Lyddon
16th June 2016

Independent research, commissioned by the Bruges Group from acknowledged expert in this field Bob Lyddon, shows that the true extent of the UK’s potential exposure to the European Investment Bank (EIB), European Central Bank (ECB) and EFSM (European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism) is over £80 billion. If the crisis in the Eurozone continues this already high figure could increase massively.

The UK carries huge financial liabilities as an EU Member State, liabilities that could translate into calls for cash far higher than our annual Member cash contribution. These are created through various funds and facilities of the EU itself, and through shareholdings in the European Investment Bank and the European Central Bank. Each of these bodies engages in financial dealings on a large scale, with the Member States acting as guarantors for sums borrowed. The main recipients of funds are the Eurozone periphery states: Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

The UK, being one of the largest and most creditworthy of the Member States, is looked at as one of the guarantors most able to stump up extra cash as and when demanded, demanded, that is, by a Qualified Majority of Member States with no unilateral right of refusal. Such calls can be expected if another crisis blows up in the Eurozone.

The UK’s leaving the EU would relieve us of these considerable risks and liabilities. This independent research shows that Britain should leave the European Union.

Jim Mellon, billionaire investor and well known specialist in sovereign risk, described this research as,
“An excellent, incisive and important work. The European Union is a millstone and we have a once in a life time opportunity to be free of it.”

Losses would be claimed by the EU institutions and added to the UK PSBR and therefore to the national debt, except that our current paid-in capital in EIB (€3.5 bn) and the ECB (€0.1 bn) have already been paid in and are already part of the UK's national debt.

Event UK cost in £ Cost per household
UK loses its capital in the European Investment
Bank and the ECB
32,560,000,000 £1,185
Loses through the European Financial
Stabilisation Mechanism
48,000,000,000 £1,747
TOTAL 80,560,000,000 £2,932

Number of UK households = 27,468,000

Brexit and Free Trade

Would a post-Brexit UK be better able to sign free trade agreements with the rest of the world?

Sam Winders
9th May 2016
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This report investigates whether the UK would be better able to sign trade agreements with countries outside of Europe outside of the EU. A key consideration of this question is whether a larger domestic market confers a significant advantage when concluding trade negotiations.

To this end I undertake two case studies in which I investigate the likely nature and scope of a potential British trade agreement with China and the US. These two countries are not only important trading partners of the UK, but their economic might directly tests whether Britain, with a smaller domestic market than the EU, would be able to conclude deep and comprehensive trade deals with substantially larger economic powers.

This paper unequivocally supports the argument that Britain will be much stronger and more prosperous independent of the EU. Outside of Brussels' restrictive embrace, the world is the limit.