European Council Briefing Note 2017/6

September 2017: Tallinn and the Leaders’ Agenda 

The working dinner which Donald Tusk presided over in Tallinn on 28 September was unscheduled, informal and conclusion-less.  This note is therefore unusually short. The meeting was not unimportant however. A brief account is therefore appropriate, not just for the sake of completeness, but also because both the debate and Tusk’s very brief comments on it afterwards clarified several aspects of EU27’s ongoing and increasingly lively debate about the Union’s future.

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European Council Briefing Note 2017/5

June 2017: EU27 En Marche
The Bratislava Roadmap, Macron and a little bit of Brexit

EU27 are en marche, not just because of Emmanuel Macron, but also and still more because the EU institutions and the UK’s 27 partners have acquired an impressive momentum since June 2016. Events have played a part as always, but so too has leadership, particularly in and through the European Council.

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Commentary 2017/4

The 2017 British general election and Brexit: is a fresh start possible?

The outcome of the British general election was a surprise and its implications are still far from clear, not least as far as Brexit is concerned. Advocates of a ‘soft Brexit’ hope that the tide has turned in their direction, while the Leavites insist that nothing has changed. The assumption underlying this paper is that a fresh start might be possible, but only if the lessons of twelve mismanaged months are taken to heart by the government’s critics as well as by the government.

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Commentary 2017/3

Dealing with Britain: the European Council of 29 April and its sequel 

Ten days ago, on 29 April, the European Council held a brief, but very important meeting. I do not normally comment in writing so soon after the event and I still intend to assess the April meeting more systematically in a Briefing Note which will cover the first four months of 2017 as a whole. The meeting of 29 April was however so important that it merits a more rapid appraisal than usual.

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Brussels Briefings

Peter Ludlow’s next briefing will be held at the Permanent Representation of Croatia to the EU, Floor 1, Avenue des Arts 50, 1000 Bruxelles on 28 June at 10.30am. If you are a subscriber you are welcome to come to briefings but must first register at

Brexit Briefings

The Brexit Briefing at the Athenaeum Club in London on July 4 was an intense and fact-filled morning. At the end of the morning participants were left in little doubt about the complexity of the negotiations between the European Commission acting for the 27 members of the EU and the UK. They were also depressed by the contrast between the thorough preparations and unity of the 27 compared with the disunity and lack of preparation of the UK.

The next Brexit Briefing will take place on 5 October with presentations by Herman van Rompuy, former president of the European Council and Alexis Lautenberg, former ambassador to the EU who was deeply engaged in negotiating the Swiss/EU bilateral agreements. Other speakers will join them to review the state of the Brexit negotiations. Early registration is advised because space is limited.

For an invitation with the full programme email:

Commentary 2017/2

25 March 2017: an anniversary worth celebrating

On 25 March 2017 the leaders of 27 EU member states and of the EU institutions, met in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.  The atmosphere was good. There was levity as well as ceremonial. The Declaration too, which the leaders of both the institutions and the 27 member states signed, struck the right note and was significantly better than the Berlin Declaration of 25 March 2007 on which it was to a certain extent modelled. It was high sounding, but not excessively so, positive but not uncritical about the past, and optimistic but not starry eyed about the future.

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European Council Briefing Note 2016/7

December 2016

Migration, Security, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Cyprus, the economy and Brexit

As the opening sentence of the synopsis acknowledges, this paper is long overdue. For reasons that are explained in both the synopsis and the introduction and confirmed in the main body of the paper, the fact that it is being circulated on 25 March, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, is however a fortunate coincidence. The Conclusions of the December European Council were relatively modest. It was nevertheless a fitting conclusion to a year which, despite Brexit, Trump, Wilders, Le Pen and sundry other distractions, was a rather encouraging one, both for the EU in general and for the European Council in particular.

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Commentary 2017/1

Between a rock and a hard place: Mrs May’s dilemma

This is a long essay. The argument is however simple. Following the 23 June vote, the new British government was confronted by a classic dilemma. Whichever option it took, the outcome was bound to be essentially the same, a hard Brexit of the kind which the markets did not like and key members of the May administration wanted to avoid. Unsurprisingly therefore the government- and much of the political class- tossed and turned in an increasingly desperate attempt to find an escape route which was less harsh and dangerous. By the beginning of the year however the game was up, and on 17 January the prime minister delivered a speech which more or less came to terms with reality.


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European Council Briefing Note 2016/6

October 2016 

Migration, Russia, Syria and Trade

The October European Council got a bad press. Undeservedly so. It was not one of the European Council’s most notable meetings, but it addressed some of the most serious questions of the day and it did so in a manner and in a tone which showed the European Council off to advantage.

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