EU leaders open “Phase Two” of Brexit talks and warn Theresa May of tougher times

Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May at last week’s EU Council. Source: EC Audiovisual Services / Copyright: European Union, 2017 / Photo: Etienne Ansotte

Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May at last week’s EU Council. Source: EC Audiovisual Services / Copyright: European Union, 2017 / Photo: Etienne Ansotte


Last week, the European Union and the United Kingdom made substantial progress on their Brexit agenda, opening the most crucial part of their divorce conversations. As the latest EU Summit wrapped up in Brussels on Friday, European Union leaders agreed Brexit talks have made enough progress to move negotiations to phase two. Also, the UK revealed more of how it would like to shape its trade pact with the EU, with Finance Minister Philip Hammond saying it is likely Britain will want to negotiate a bespoke deal, rather than copying existing arrangements like the Canada-EU FTA. However, despite the many news after months of cold chats, some leaders cautioned the second phase of Brexit talks will be harder than the first, and that the toughest part of Theresa May’s job could even start now.

Sufficient progress

Just before midday last Friday, when she was already travelling back to her country, UK Prime Minister Theresa May received the news from the 27 EU leaders that Brexit talks talks have made enough progress to move negotiations to phase two. “The European Council welcomes the progress achieved during the first phase of negotiations […] and decides that it is sufficient to move to the second phase related to transition and the framework for the future relationship”, said an official European Council press release published on Friday.

Positive exchange

EU Council President Donald Tusk was the first to announce the go-ahead for the second phase of negotiations, and congratulated British Prime Minister Theresa May on Twitter. “EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of #Brexit talks. Congratulations PM @theresa_may”, he said on Friday. UK’s PM May responded with thanks, welcoming the decision as “an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership”.

The relaxed and positive exchange between leaders showed how last week’s summit marked a significant change in atmosphere between the two sides after months of tough conversations. On Thursday night EU leaders gave Mrs. May a round of applause as the British prime minister ended a short speech to a leaders’ dinner. The morning after, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said the applause had been deserved. “Some of us thought, including me, that she did make a big effort and this has to be recognised”, he said.

The bitter part

However, despite such a warmer approach compared to the past, the next, more decisive phase is likely to be the toughest test for Theresa May. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Friday that, despite the big efforts made by UK’s PM, the next stage “would be much harder than the first phase”, with the first having been very hard anyway. German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed him on Friday at the end of the Summit. “We have made good progress, the second phase of talks can start”, Chancellor Merkel said. “But this will mean even tougher work – that was clear today in the discussion – than we have experienced so far”.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern went even deeper, saying even a primary school student could see that the first phase deal on the Irish border would come back to haunt the talks because it was “impossible for Britain” to leave the bloc’s single market while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, as described by Reuters. “Our primary school students can see that there is a riddle to be solved”, Reuters quoted the Austrian leader as saying.

Open points

Indeed many open points will need to be touched during Brexit talks’ second phase, as “phase two” is when the discussion can widen to include the transition phase and – most importantly – trade talks. Sources report that EU leaders reiterated on Friday their position that Britain cannot conclude a free-trade accord with the bloc until it has left and become a “third country”, but this is something that Theresa May wants to bring home within the next fifteen months. If Britain and the EU will not agree on a trade pact before the UK leaves the bloc in 2019, Mrs. May might have to agree a divorce settlement without knowing precisely what the future relationship would look like, which is something that the Conservative wing in her Parliament will never accept.

Also, despite having agreed agreed at the summit to support May’s call for a two-year transition out of the bloc, EU 27 Leaders are already making clear that there will be no “discounts” for the UK during the transitional phase, as Britain will be treated as a “third country”. “Such transitional arrangements, which will be part of the Withdrawal Agreement, must be in the interest of the Union, clearly defined and precisely limited in time”, said the EU Council statement released on Friday.

Replicate the status quo

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond on Saturday made his call to reassure businesses that there Britain’s departure from the bloc in 2019 will represent no cliff edge. Speaking in Beijing at the UK-China Economic Financial Dialogue, just a day after EU leaders paved the way to “Brexit phase two”, the UK’s Finance minister revealed that the UK would seek to replicate the status quo even after the divorce from Brussels. “We won’t technically or legally be in the customs union or in the single market,” Mr. Hammond said. “But we’re committed as a result of the agreement we’ve made this week to creating an environment which will effectively replicate the current status quo”, he also added, as reported by the Financial Times.

Bespoke arrangements

UK Chancellor Hammond went further and described the shape a future EU-UK trade deal will have, saying it was likely that the UK would want to secure specific, “bespoke arrangements”. “We have a level of trade and commercial integration with the EU 27 which is unlike the situation of any trade partner that the EU has ever done a trade deal with before,” he told reporters. “And therefore it is likely that we will want to negotiate specific arrangements, bespoke arrangements”, Hammond added, also saying that it’s unlikely that Britain will develop a Canada-style trade deal with the EU. “I expect that we will develop something that is neither the Canada model nor an EEA model, but something which draws on the strength of our existing relationship”, Mr. Hammond said from Beijing.

As soon as Chancellor Hammond finished his speech to the press, Chinese Vice Finance Minister Shi Yaobin said “We hope the UK and the EU will conduct their Brexit negotiations in a way that’s mutually beneficial for both sides and result in outcomes that are desirable for both sides”. After last Friday this looks by all means more feasible, although it’s becoming more evident this is when the toughest part begins.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How robotics can help humanitarians bridge the digital divide

EU budget: Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020

EU-US to miss 2015 deadline and even lose Germany’s support in TTIP’s darkest week yet

Half of the world’s population lack access to essential health services – are we doing enough?

UN expert criticizes States for ‘ganging up’ on Wikileaks’ Assange; warns against extradition, fearing ‘serious’ rights violations

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

5 things to know about the Western Balkans

Sri Lanka PM: This is how I will make my country rich by 2025

EU budget: Commission proposes major funding increase for stronger borders and migration

Chart of the day: These countries have the largest carbon footprints

With potential to boost profits by up to 20 per cent, a woman’s place is at work, says UN labour agency

These are the United States’ most exported products

Does the “climate change” require ombudsman services for environment?

Mario Draghi quizzed for last time by Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee

A day in the life of a refugee: why should we care?

“China is the only BRICS country to have either met or possibly slightly surpassed my expectations”, BRICS inventor Jim O’ Neil from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Brexit update: Will the EU grant extention to Britain preventing economic chaos?

Luxembourg has achieved high levels of growth and well-being but must do more to preserve and share prosperity

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

After the European Parliament elections – what happens next?

More answers from Facebook ahead of Parliament hearing today

Gender Equality Index 2019: Still far from the finish line

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

This is what a smart city should do for its people

How electrification can supercharge the energy transition

EP Group leaders on Brexit: “the agreement is not open to renegotiation”

5 reasons why reading books is good for you

Intensified Al Qaeda and ISIL activity in Yemen ‘deeply worrying’, says UN Human Rights Office

Why the financial scandals multiply?

Will France vote for more or less Europe in the next presidential elections?

EU decides “in absentia” of civil society

We’re all in the same boat on the SDGs. Here’s how we steer a course

New migration pact highlights key role of business in protecting migrants, say UN experts

These countries have the most doctoral graduates

Does the Greek deal strengthen the Eurozone? Markets react cautiously

How tiny countries top social and economic league tables (and win at football, too)

The space internet race is dawning. Here’s what to expect

Why enterprise risk management is the future for banks

EU to increase spending and improve delivery of education in emergencies and protracted crises

Somalia has ‘once in a generation’ gender equality opportunity – UN Women chief

UN welcomes ‘most comprehensive agreement ever’ on global health

Removing deadly mines means ‘new horizons and hope’, clears a path to SDGs, says UN chief

EU Visa Policy: Commission welcomes agreement to strengthen EU visa rules

As urbanisation grows, cities unveil sustainable development solutions on World Day

Myanmar and UN agriculture agency agree framework to improve nutrition and food security

Draghi to hold on zero interest rates until he leaves ECB

Barriers to healthcare: are they real?

Is this 3D-printed building the future home for astronauts on Mars?

Companies have a new skill to master – innovation

Lost in translation

What the future holds for the EU – China relations?

Serious concerns over Sahel, require ‘urgent action’: Senior UN Africa official

Paris agreed with Berlin over a loose and ineffective banking union

ECB’s €1.14 trillion again unifies Eurozone; Germany approves sovereign debt risks to be pooled

Veteran public official from Portugal elected to lead UN migration agency

Canada needs to increase foreign aid flows in line with its renewed engagement

ITU Telecom World 2017: exploring smart digital transformation

Cameron’s “No Brexit” campaign wins top business support as Tory front breaks

GSMA announces new keynote speakers for 2018 Mobile World Congress

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s