Monday

12th Apr 2021

EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions

  • Davis (l) and Barnier (r) held a press conference after the second round of Brexit talks (Photo: European Commission)

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, called on the UK to clarify its position on the financial settlement and accept the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court on citizens’ rights. This came at the end of the first full round of Brexit discussions on Thursday (20 July).

After agreeing to a negotiating calendar in a first round last month, the EU and the UK sides presented their positions this week, and attempted to identify points of agreement and disagreement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"These were robust talks this week that require flexibility on both sides,” UK Brexit minister David Davis said in a joint press conference.

But Barnier stressed that, for serious negotiations to begin, the UK needs to present its own position on how it wants to settle its financial obligations persisting after Brexit.

“Clarification on the UK position is indispensable ... [what] we want is an orderly withdrawal for the UK. That means accounts must be settled,” the French politician said.

The UK only accepted last week, in principle, that it would need to pay to settle its outstanding obligations with the EU after Brexit.

During the second round of negotiations this week, the EU has presented the legal basis underpinning its argument for a financial settlement to the UK negotiators.

For now, the only convergence between the two sides is on "the recognition of obligations surviving the withdrawal date”, a senior EU official said, adding that reaching a settlement will not be an incremental process.

There was no exact figure presented by the EU, nor is it asked of the UK. Negotiators still need to agree on a methodology and on what areas the settlement should cover.

“We have drawn up a list on what should be covered, we need to see what the UK approach is,” the official said.

EU law = EU court

The EU’s chief negotiator also warned that any EU law that continues to be applied after Brexit, particularly citizens’ rights, would have to be protected by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ is a red line for prime minister Theresa May’s government.

Barnier said, however, that if EU law is involved, only the ECJ can act as a guarantor.

"Quite frankly, we can see no alternative to the ECJ for enforcing citizens' rights,” Barnier said, adding that this is a "fundamental divergence" between the EU and the UK positions.

“This is not a political point, but a legal one. If there is to be continuity of EU law, only the court [ECJ] can interpret EU law. That’s not a choice, but an obligation,” he insisted.

Officials pointed out that the court associated with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - the free trade area including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland - also follows ECJ rulings, thus it cannot be seen as an alternative for the UK.

Throughout the week, the negotiating working groups focused on the key issues - citizens’ rights, financial settlement, and the border in Ireland - which need to be tackled before Barnier can suggest to the 27 member states that “sufficient progress” has been made, allowing discussions on future relations to start.

That is foreseen for October, with three rounds of talks ahead until then. But officials say that an extra round could be added if the “sufficient progress” point is within reach.

Discord on citizens' rights

The positions presented this week are still far apart, even on such issues as citizens’ rights, where both sides agree that a swift solution is needed to provide certainty for the over 4 million people caught up in Brexit.

There are disagreements on the rights of future family members of EU nationals in the UK, and carrying certain social benefits to other countries.

The UK side is concerned that British citizens living on the continent might not be able to move around the EU after Brexit.

The EU argues for reciprocity, saying EU nationals should also be able to continue to move around the 27 member states after Brexit, and stresses that this issue is part of the negotiations.

The UK has also indicated to EU negotiators that it wants to run criminal checks on EU nationals post-Brexit, under UK law. The EU side said that it would want to see more details on this issue.

A source close to the talks said that more internal thinking was needed on both sides.

The issue of the UK leaving the Euratom treaty, Europe's nuclear agreement, also came up, but the EU needs clarity on a safeguard mechanism that the UK plans to put in place instead of the current agreement.

There was a round of discussions on the common travel area between Ireland and Northern Ireland and the preservation of the Good Friday agreement - to ensure that the peace deal is not put in jeopardy by Brexit.

The next round of talks will begin on 28 August.

Brexit talks restart in sense of urgency

The first full round of Brexit talks on key issues kicks off on Monday, while infighting heats up in the UK government over its strategy.

Barnier urges UK to come up with Brexit positions

The EU's negotiator calls on the UK government to come up with its positions on key Brexit issues ahead of the next round of talks on Monday. London is expected to do that by the end of the week.

Barnier sets price for hard Brexit

The EU Brexit negotiator warned that a customs union between the UK and EU will not be possible if the UK doesn't want to respect single market rules, and "no deal" would send the UK back to "a distant past".

Column / Brexit Briefing

UK presses the Brexit pause button

Originally, a transitional deal to soften the UK's exit from the EU was seen as a no-go on the British side, but now it is seeming more and more likely.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Post-Brexit talks in last push until Sunday

The probability of no deal has increased as a last-ditch effort by British prime minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen did not bridge gaps.

Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

Research by the London School of Economics forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy, writes mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the president of the Committee of the Regions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us