This question states the EU has been making Brexit harder for the UK. One of the answers stated the reasons were to dissuade other members from deciding to leave as well.

What I wonder is, is that true? If so, how exatly is the EU making brexit harder and how could they have made it easier?

One doubt I've had was: if the UK gets an advantageous deal despite not being part of the EU, wouldn't that weaken the EU's position relative to other non-EU countries?

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    Harder than what? When negotiating the withdrawal of UK from the EU, the EU has exactly zero responsibility to the UK and all the responsibility to get a good deal for their citizens. The EU using its leverage to get what it wants from the UK/EU deal is exactly what it should be doing. That is literally its job, to look after its members.
    – Jontia
    Jun 11, 2019 at 13:10
  • @Jontia harder than necessary? Your comment seems like a basis for an answer. The question isn't really POB as one could either argue the EU could make it easier and provide an example of how or one could argue the EU could not make it easier and provide arguments for that.
    – JJJ
    Jun 11, 2019 at 13:34
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    @JJJ I don't know what "harder than necessary" means. Like you've put in your answer the EU could have just given the UK everything it wanted. That would have been abandoning its responsibilities to itself as an organisation and its citizens and businesses as individuals. In any secret negotiation each negotiator must go in a "hard" as possible, because its all about winning and getting the great deal that is awesome for you and your side. That might also be beneficial for the other person, but that's not your goal. 1/2
    – Jontia
    Jun 11, 2019 at 13:39
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    @Jontia harder than necessary given the mandates of the different actors, at least that's how I (and you in your comments?) understand it. As for open vs. secret. Open doesn't necessarily mean more or faster progress. Especially if there's a lot of pressure and media coverage that can actually inhibit progress. Indeed, not everyone may be comfortable discussing as much as they would be behind closed doors. Especially if both parties want as soft a Brexit as possible, closed door might make more progress than open doors.
    – JJJ
    Jun 11, 2019 at 14:12
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    @Jontia sure, but that's not the case. In particular, the UK wants to put control on immigration (in some form or another) and it wants to make trade deals with the rest of the world. Both of these points have been addressed extensively by the British, the EU has responded to that by layout red lines and that's basically where we are now (and have been for many months). There's no progress because both sides are sticking to their position and they haven't allowed themselves any room for manoeuvring.
    – JJJ
    Jun 11, 2019 at 15:25

3 Answers 3


if the UK gets an advantageous deal despite not being part of the EU, wouldn't that weaken the EU's position relative to other non-EU countries?

Yes. You'd have to think of what the EU really is: a group of countries working together on some shared values.

You could compare that to a club where members contribute to benefit from shared work. As such, it is obvious that club members don't want those outside the club (and thus not contributing to the same extent) to have the same or more privileges than those who do actively contribute.

As you note, it might work if a few people reep the benefits without contributing, but it doesn't work if the majority of people don't contribute but do reap the benefits.

In the EU example, we see that with the EU's red lines. Those are rules the EU has set for itself in the Brexit negotiation (and before that). A red line could consist of requirements on states that want access to the single market.

Is the EU 'punishing' the UK for Brexit? How so?

It depends on how you define punishing. Could the EU make it easier on the UK? Sure, they could just give into everything the UK wants. Will the EU do that? No, because it means creating an non-level playing field where the UK reaps most of the benefits (e.g. allowing the UK to make special deals with other countries that EU members cannot make while still allowing the UK to have access to all of the EU market).

Is the EU really punishing the UK? No, because those rules (even if not written down explicitly) were always there from the UK's signing on until now. Furthermore, with a bit of logic one can easily see that trade-offs will have to made on the UK side if the UK wants something different(=Brexit).



The UK wants to leave, that's fine. However the EU owes the UK nothing (while the UK still owes what you can think of as member fees) and has absolutely no obligations to humour any of the UK's requests about terms of leave. Likewise, the UK doesn't have to agree to any of the EU's terms on the future relationship, they can just leave.

Claiming that the EU is "punishing" the UK makes as much sense and is about as honest as claiming you punish a random kid on a street by not handing over your phone when the kid says they want your phone, to give you a more relatable metaphor.



The EU is simply being fair to the UK and to all other countries, members or otherwise. The offers made to the UK have all been based on what other countries outside the EU have available to them.

Claims of unfairness are not based in reality. For example, it has been claimed that the issue of the Irish border is being used to harm the UK and weaken its negotiating position. Realistically, the EU must protect its customs border due to existing treaties with other countries and WTO rules.

Another example would be the EU not giving the UK a special deal allowing greater access to the single market. There was much talk of German car manufacturers demanding this, the claim being that the UK is their biggest market. That is untrue, the single market is their biggest market and over 6x larger than the UK, so naturally protecting its integrity comes first.

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