Brexit talks: 2nd round fails to bring the EU and the UK closer on key issues


Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator and David Davis, British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, hold a joint press conference at the end of the second round of Brexit negotiations. (Copyright European Union / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service)

After millions of words that have been said over the matter, last week, the time for a concrete evaluation of the progress of Brexit negotiations came. Last Thursday, the European Union and the United Kingdom concluded the second round of Brexit talks, which was seen to be as the full conclusion of the first leg of negotiations and was regarded as the litmus test of the general progress of the works. And, despite negotiators of both sides said days before the talks kicked off they would work to identify both “their differences and their similarities”, it seems that they made good progress just on the former.

Background

When last month the negotiators of the EU and the UK met for the first official round of the Brexit talks, after the United Kingdom triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the objective of the meeting was only to agree on the “organisation of the negotiations”, as repeatedly said by all key players involved. When the second round came closer though, it seemed clear that both sides had higher objectives and they wanted to bring home some substantial progress. At the start of the meeting, Monday last week, Britain’s Brexit minister and veteran anti-EU campaigner David Davis said it was “time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation”, and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said, “we will now delve into the heart of the matter”, before the two sat down for a first meeting.

“Fundamental divergences”

However, despite such determined approach, it seemed immediately clear after the end of last week’s talks that the two parts are far from reaching an agreement. As soon as the second round of negotiations came to an end, on Thursday, both negotiating teams have recognized there are still “fundamental” differences on key disputes, including issues on citizens’ rights and the Irish border. Most notably, EU’s chief negotiator Barnier, despite recognizing “some progress” has been made, said there was “a fundamental divergence” on how to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and of Britons in the remaining 27 EU countries after Brexit. “Any reference to European rights imply their oversight by the Court of Justice of the European Union,” he told a joint news conference with British Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Citizens’ rights

The citizens’ rights is indeed where the main differences between the EU and the UK remain after last week’s meetings. Both negotiators from the EU and UK stressed they want an early and detailed deal to protect the rights of nearly 5 million citizens that today live on this or that side of the “post-Brexit barricade”, which is actually one of the trickiest points of discussion. The most complicated aspect is indeed the right to move around, the right to work and to to export social benefits after Great Britain leaves the bloc. If no compromise will be found, the risk for 3.5 million EU nationals in the UK and 1.2 million British people on the continent is that there will be no freedom of movement and no real protection while working abroad.

EU’s negotiator Barnier repeatedly reinforced the EU’s message that that any future disputes over citizens’ rights be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice, which at the moment is a total no-go for UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May. “In the withdrawal agreement itself, citizens must be able to find the legal certainty that they need in their day-to-day lives,” Mr. Barnier said. “Quite frankly, as far as we are concerned we can see no other way in which can guarantee the permanent continuation of such European rights as exercised. Clearly any reference to European rights implies their oversight by the courts of justice of the European Union”, he added. UK’s chief negotiator Davis responded: “We agree on the need for certainty on the part of citizens both in the EU and the UK. We obviously have different views on how we achieve that”.

Exit bill

Another area of disagreement surely was the financial one, with the “divorce bill” being the hottest topic. Michel Barnier immediately called for clarity on the British position on the financial settlement. “I know one has to compromise in negotiations but we are not there yet”, Mr. Barnier said. “A clarification of the UK position is indispensable for us to negotiate and for us to make sufficient progress on this financial dossier, which is inseparable from the other withdrawal dossiers”, he also added. The EU’s position in such a crucial matter is that Britain needs to agree a “single financial settlement”, as often stated by EU negotiators, covering debts and unpaid bills after more than four decades of membership. “We know that agreement will not be achieved through incremental steps. As soon as the UK is ready to clarify the nature of its commitments, we will be prepared to discuss this with the British negotiators”, EU’s Barnier also commented last week.

The UK’s “obligations”

The British side acknowledged for the first time last week they have “obligations” to the EU, while uncertainty persisted over the size of such obligations and more. “On financial settlement we both recognise the importance of sorting out the obligations we have to one another, both legally and in a spirit of mutual cooperation”, said UK’s David Davis. “We had robust but constructive talks this week. There is a lot left to talk about, and further work before we can resolve this”, Mr. Davis also added. However, during the Q&A at the end of last Thursday’s conference in Brussels, Mr. Davis refused to give any fresh evidence of the government’s willingness to compromise, as also reported by the Guardian. The EU executive has quantified the exit bill to be in a region of 60 billion euros ($70 billion).

Easy deal

What failed to receive any special mention and probably to gain momentum during last week’s sessions was the trade agreement between the two parts in the post-Brexit era. However, British international trade minister Liam Fox said last week he was convinced a trade deal with the EU should be “one of the easiest in human history” to reach, although his country could survive without one if necessary. The comments from the Cabinet Minister came as Brexit Secretary Davis wrapped up last week’s meetings with his EU counterparts, and only weeks after Mr. Davis described his job as more difficult than working for the space agency NASA.

Indeed Mr. Fox, while on an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme, downplayed the importance of securing a free trade deal with Brussels, and argued that Britain could manage even without any deal, if negotiations collapsed and the UK was forced to leave without an agreement. On the reasons why reaching an agreement with the bloc would be so easy, Fox said: “We are already beginning with zero tariffs, and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence, as it is called. In other words, our rules and our laws are exactly the same”.

Future talks

The two sides published a joint traffic lights report at the end of last week’s round of talks, to show progress on 44 separate issues of contention and coloured them according to how advanced the state of play is. Out of 44 separate issues, the report shows there is an agreement on 22 “green areas” while severe disagreements on 14 “red” issues exist and as many as 8 “amber” areas that need further clarification remain. Now the next round of talks is set for August 28, where progress on questions such as Northern Ireland and its borders with the Republic of Ireland is expected to be made. But, despite high hopes and expectations, Mr. Davis clearly said last week we “shouldn’t expect incremental progress in every round”.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

MWC 2016 LIVE: Telenor CEO calls on operators to embrace Mobile Connect initiative

For the future of Europe youth remains a priority

Global Talent – Professional Internships

ECB asks for more subsidies to banks

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

Alexis Tsipras ready to test Eurozone’s political sturdiness; Up to what point?

What the G7 wants to do in eastern Ukraine

Can ECB’s €60 billion a month save Eurozone?

The third bailout agreement for Greece is a done deal amid European economies full of problems

Whose interests are protected by the new Mortgage Directive?

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

One more country to test the EU project: Kaczynski’s Poland

Facebook and Google to treat Europe as the 51st State of the USA

Teamgum @ TheNextWeb 2014

Trump stumbles badly on his Russian openings; Europeans wary of Putin

International World Summit Award calls for outstanding digital applications with impact on society from 178 UN member states

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

World Retail Congress announces Dubai 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees

Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

Can We(esterners) ever understand (the) Chinese

How Germany strives to mold ECB’s monetary policy to her interests

Commission goes less than mid-way on expensive euro

Britain and Germany change attitude towards the European Union

Why youth unemployment is so difficult to counter

No hard drivers in sight to remodel the stagnating affairs of the EU

Facebook wins EU approval for WhatsApp acquisition; just a sign of the times

EU: Huge surplus in the trade of services with the rest of the world

“If they think they can slave an entire nation, then they will just have the opposite results!”, Alexis Tsipras cries out from the Greek parliament

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

When will Eurozone’s unemployment rate stop being Europe’s worst nightmare?

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

Lithuania needs to get rid of the victim mentality

EU and India re-open talks over strategic partnership while prepare for a Free Trade Agreement

Trying to cure bank cancer with analgesics

EU Budgets: Europe hoping for Xmas gifts

Why the ECB suddenly decided to flood banks with money?

EU growth in 2015 to be again sluggish; Can the Juncker Commission fight this out?

China is now heavily endorsing its big investment flow in the Central Eastern European (CEE) countries

To my Chinese friend

“No labels for entrepreneurs!”, a young business leader from Italy cries out

“As German Chancellor I want to be able to cope with the merger of the real and digital economy”, Angela Merkel from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

“Hasta la vista” Google says to Spain and now Europe is next?

Eurozone: Economic Sentiment Indicator recovering losses

European banking stress tests 2014: A more adverse approach for a shorter banking sector

European Youth Forum welcomes strong stance on human rights in State of the Union

The EU lets the bankers go on rigging the benchmarks

The European Sting @ the European Business Summit 2014 – Where European Business and Politics shape the future

Connectivity and collaboration in the ICT industry: the key to socio-economic development

EU–US: What is the real exchange in a Free Trade Agreement?

China’s 13th Five Year Plan and the opportunities for Europe

A Sting Exclusive: “Change is challenge, change is opportunity”, Commissioner Bienkowska cries out live from European Business Summit 2015

Junker for Commission President: What were the stakes in this affair

ECB with an iron hand disciplines the smaller Eurozone member states; latest victim: Greece

Trump enrages the Europeans and isolates the US in G7

COP21 Breaking News_12 December: Another sleepless night for the negotiators before Indaba meeting

The developing countries keep the world going

Deutsche Bank chased away from US, threatened with more fines

After Brexit and Grexit, Brussels to deal with Poloust

A Sting Exclusive: why the environment is important to your health, by UNEP’s Head for Europe

The US + Britain trivialize mainland Europe, NATO and the EU

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s