Sunday

27th May 2018

Brexit talks to resume next week

  • Davis will be back in Brussels next Friday (Photo: European Commission)

Brexit negotiators will resume talks next week with a month and a half left to achieve progress on key files before the EU-27 leaders meet in December to decide moving onto discussions on trade and future relations.

"Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator, and David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, agreed today that the two teams would meet for Article 50 negotiations on 9 and 10 November 2017. An agenda will be published in due course," the UK and the EU said in a joint statement Tuesday evening (31 October).

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Dates for the new round of talks emerged after Britain's top Brexit official Oliver Robbins and Barnier's deputy, Sabine Weyand met in Brussels.

Both the EU and the UK have pledged to accelerate talks.

But with only 17 months to go before the UK leaves the bloc, the slow pace of negotiations has increased the possibility for Britain leaving without a deal.

The EU proposed three new rounds, while the UK sought "continuous" talks.

"We have clearly proposed three [different dates] for new rounds. In the next few hours or days we'll be working with British delegations to find the right dates because we need to work in a very intense way to find this agreement before December," Barnier told reporters in Bratislava earlier on Tuesday.

EU-27 leaders will meet in December, when they will decide if sufficient progress has been achieved on the financial settlement, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and citizens' rights.

If leaders give the green light, talks can then move onto negotiations about trade and future relations with the UK.

An EU official said on Tuesday the bloc is ready to accelerate talks, but there must be substance to those talks.

One of the key sticking points has been the financial settlement between the UK and the EU. The bloc wants London to spell out what existing commitments it is willing to pay.

The issue of the "divorce bill" is toxic for the UK prime minister Theresa May back home, as Brexit hardliners in her Conservative party oppose paying large sums to the EU.

Davis on Tuesday told a House of Lords committee that the final financial deal is likely to favour the EU.

"The withdrawal agreement, on balance, will probably favour the [European] Union in terms of things like money and so on. Whereas the future relationship will favour both sides and will be important to both of us," he said.

He also added that the UK wants a transition deal by early next year.

"We would like to see an implementation agreement in the first quarter of next year. That'll be the earliest we could possibly get it, in principle, because it won't be in fine detail in a couple of rounds of negotiations in January, but in principle," Davis said.

"By March next year, I am hoping we will have, intending we will have, an implementation period," he added.

Irish border issue

On the border issue, Davis admitted that it would be difficult to avoid a hard border, a key goal for the EU and Ireland, after the UK leaves the customs union.

"If we achieve an outcome, as we hope to, which maintains tariff-free trade, then maintaining an invisible border will be relatively easy," he said. "If we end up with a tariff arrangement, then we've got a real problem and dealing with that is difficult."

A zero-tariff deal alone would not be enough however to avoid a hard border. As the UK wants to leave the customs union, checks would become necessary to ensure EU standards.

The EU is awaiting proposals from the UK how to avoid the creation of such a hard border.

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