Forging Unity: European Commission Leadership in the Brexit Negotiations

L.A. Schuette*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Web of Science)


This article explains why the European Union has remained strikingly cohesive during the Brexit withdrawal negotiations by focussing on the role played by its negotiator: the European Commission''s Task Force 50. The analysis demonstrates that the Task Force 50 set out to forge unity among the EU27 by exercising both subtle instrumental and direct political leadership. The Commission significantly influenced the outcome of the negotiations by shaping the agenda and process, brokering deals, and ultimately achieving a withdrawal agreement that all member states signed up to. Its transparent and consultative behaviour generated trust among member states, which allowed the Commission to play such a prominent role. These findings challenge the prevailing view that the EU has become increasingly intergovernmental at expense of the Commission. Drawing on original interviews, the article substantiates this argument by tracing the Commission's leadership activities in the run-up to and throughout the withdrawal negotiations (2016-20).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142-1159
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number5
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Brexit
  • EU institutions
  • European Commission
  • brexit
  • eu institutions
  • european commission
  • leadership
  • negotiations

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