Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Brexit talks restart in sense of urgency

  • Davis (l) and Barnier kicked off the meetings on Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The second round of Brexit negotiations kicks off on Monday (17 July) in Brussels, focusing on the key issues of the divorce agreement.

The EU’s top negotiator, Michel Barnier, will meet with the UK’s Brexit minister, David Davis, in the morning. Detailed talks will start in the afternoon with a discussion on the objectives for the second round of talks, which will go on until Thursday.

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Working groups on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and “other separation issues”, such as the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court, will begin talks on Monday and continue work for the next four days.

Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, and the permanent secretary of the UK department for exiting the EU, Olly Robbins, will focus on the issue of Ireland on Tuesday and meet regularly throughout the week.

On Thursday, Barnier will host Davis for a working lunch, which will be followed by a press conference in the afternoon.

Barnier has warned the UK that the time is running out. "The clock is ticking," he said once again last Wednesday.

Show me the money

The single financial settlement between the UK and the EU is a major point of contention.

Barnier warned last week that if the UK does not agree to the principle of a financial settlement, it will jeopardise the talks on the future relationship with the bloc.

David Davis only acknowledged last Thursday that the UK would have to pay something, following remarks by foreign minister Boris Johnson, that the EU should “go whistle” if it expected the Brits to pay large sums, went down badly.

"The government recognises that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the U.K.’s withdrawal, and that these need to be resolved,” Davis said a statement.

"We will work with the EU to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state,” the statement added.

This was the first time the UK had acknowledged that it would need to settle its financial obligations, which it had agreed to as an EU member.

Other member states want to see the UK pay its part into the EU budget and into its other financial agreements with the bloc.

The EU has already published its position on the financial settlement, along with eight other issues.

The UK has come up with positions on the citizens’ rights, membership of Euratom (the European nuclear agreement), the role of the European Court of Justice and privileges of EU institutions and agencies.

Infighting

A year after the majority of British voters chose to leave the bloc, there is no more certainty about what Brexit is going to look like, other than it being messy.

In October, EU leaders could decide on Barnier's recommendation on whether talks have achieved “sufficient progress” in order to progress onto discussing future relations.

While the first substantive negotiations start on Monday, the two sides have a little more than 14 months to agree on the crucial issues of citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to be able to conclude the divorce agreement before the UK tumbles out of the EU on 30 March 2019.

That is a daunting task, especially that the UK government, marred by infighting, has been slow to draw up its own Brexit plan, has no clear tactic, and have lost political capital at the ballot boxes in June.

UK finance minister Philip Hammond, seen as a key supporter of a so-called “soft Brexit”, talked on Sunday (16 July) about the need for transitional agreements to be in place for some years to avoid a no deal scenario, in which the UK falls out of the EU with no agreement.

Hammond told the BBC that government ministers were becoming increasingly convinced of the need for transitional arrangements to reduce disruption, with Brexit looming.

"Five weeks ago, the idea of a transition period was quite a new concept, I think now you would find that pretty much everybody around the cabinet table accepts that there will be some kind of transition,” he said.

Hammond also warned that businesses are holding off investments in the UK because of the uncertainty created by Brexit.

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