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Round two of #Brexit negotiations begins

| July 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Today (17 July) Brexit negotiators will start to get their teeth into the substance of the discussions, in particular citizens’ rights,
writes Catherine Feore

The first round of Article 50 negotiations between the UK and the European Commission took place on 19 June. It was agreed to create working groups on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and other separation issues. The special arrangements for the Ireland/Northern Ireland land border is the third issue key to reaching the first stage of an agreement.

The first stage established a modus operandi for the negotiations. The main outcome was an agreement on the terms of reference. Michel Barnier has made it clear last week that the “clock is ticking” and that the discussions must begin “in earnest”. Delays caused by an unnecessary general election and open warfare within the British cabinet on what “Brexit means Brexit” means, makes the UK a difficult partner. Former British diplomats have started to openly raise concerns that a ‘no deal’ exit has become much more probable.

On Northern Ireland, negotiators have to go slowly “in the form of a dialogue” not only because of the region’s current political vacuum, but because we are in full ‘marching season’ which can cause tensions between nationalist and unionist communities. However, the pause may be welcome because there is little promise of resolving border issues until the EU knows what the UK wants in terms of its future relationship with the EU.

Progress has been made on the other main issues of citizens’ rights and the financial settlement. The UK has acknowledged that they do have at least some financial commitments that must be honoured and that they will probably continue to contribute towards the EU’s budget. The negotiations will – as suggested by Barnier – focus on the methodology rather than the amount. However, the methodology will be established with a sharp eye on what that amount could be.

The biggest challenge for Davis (Brexit Minister) will be to reach an amount that he can ‘sell’ to the British public, bearing in mind that he is one of Theresa May’s possible successors, and that the other challenger Boris Johnson has said that the words ‘go whistle’ would be appropriate should the EU seeks to demand ‘extortionate amounts’. Johnson referred to the figures he had heard; the most widely touted amounts have been €60 billion and €100 billion.

The area where greatest progress has been made since June is on citizens’ rights. However, Barnier is clear that EU-27 citizens residing in the UK should have the same rights as those UK citizens residing in the EU-27 countries, he also wanted those rights protected under the European Court of Justice.

It will not have escaped the notice of those in and outside the UK that the British Conservative Party is teetering on the edge. Already hostage to ten Democratic Unionist Party MEPs, open cabinet fighting and more outspoken dissent from business is making an already challenging situation almost untenable. As the clock ticks, ministers bristle and the EU-27 proves to be a tight and determined negotiating team; the UK looks weak, ostracized and deluded. At the same time ‘project fear’ is starting materialize with daily decisions by businesses to relocate at least parts of their business.


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Category: A Frontpage, Economy, EU, European Commission, featured, Featured Article, Opinion, UK

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