Negotiating Brexit: A clash of approaches?

Magdalena Frennhoff Larsén*, Sangeeta Khorana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 31 January 2020, the UK left the European Union after 47 years of membership. This paper uses the conceptual distinction between integrative and distributive bargaining to compare the EU’s and the UK’s approaches in the negotiations that led to the Withdrawal Agreement, setting out the terms of the UK’s exit, and the Political Declaration on the framework for the future EU–UK relationship. While it would be rational to expect both parties to adopt integrative approaches given the nature of the issues, the long history of cooperation, and the parties’ mutual interest in maintaining a close relationship in the future, the comparison demonstrates that it was mainly the EU that leaned towards the integrative end of the negotiating spectrum, with extensive internal consultations, a willingness to engage in open and interest-based discussions aimed at problem-solving, and high levels of transparency, whereas the UK leaned further to the distributive end, reflecting less engagement and consultation with domestic constituents, a focus on pre-determined positions that need defending, and lower levels of transparency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)858-877
Number of pages20
JournalComparative European Politics
Issue number5
Early online date23 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Brexit
  • Distributive
  • European Union
  • Integrative
  • Negotiations


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