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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Brexit Negotiations as a Mixed Motive Game for National Parliaments: Insights from the UK House of Commons and the German Bundestag

European Union
Frank Wendler
Universität Hamburg
Frank Wendler
Universität Hamburg

From the perspective of national parliaments, the negotiations on the British exit from the EU present themselves as a mixed motive game, on two levels: First, on the level of relations between parliament and the executive, parliamentary demands for democratic scrutiny and oversight compete with the rationale of providing support and leeway to executive actors in the national interest and reducing potential veto points for negotiations. Second, with regard to the future course of European integration, key economic and political considerations speak in favor of a stability-oriented solution for Brexit in order to limit its potentially disruptive effects, while party political motives set incentives for more polarizing discourses calling for change in the EU and its interaction with the nation state. Both dilemmas can be modelled theoretically through the lens of discursive institutionalism and its analytical focus on the tension between elite-oriented coordinative discourse and more polarizing communicative discourse towards the political public. How does the tension between these two logics of discourse play out in empirical cases of national parliaments? Addressing this question, the paper compares two cases likely to lean towards two different extremes for solving the dilemma: namely, the German Bundestag as a likely case of a stability-oriented coordinative discourse led by the Grand Coalition government, and the UK House of Commons as a likely case of strongly polarized communicative discourse between a fractured and contested executive and parliament towards a divided public. Empirically, the paper is based on a review of parliamentary procedure, legislative acts and material from plenary debates in both chambers.
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