The former Director General of the EU Council’s legal service says Brexit talks could be heading for collapseby Jean-Claude Piris / March 27, 2018 / Leave a comment
The Brexit mood is turning to optimism. Last December, Britain and the European Union agreed on the issues of citizens’ rights and of money. Last week, a possible transition period was agreed. It would allow Brexit to happen legally on 29th March 2019, but its economic effects to be delayed until January 2021. For Britain, this is much needed.
But there are problems. This transition can happen only if a Withdrawal Agreement (WA) enters into force before 29th March 2019. This is by no means easy. The WA must be ratified by the British and EU Parliaments, and thus be signed by around October 2018. The most difficult issues—the Irish border and the framework for future trade relations—must thus be solved within the next seven months. Whether this will happen is doubtful.
Britain has refused both the European Economic Area (Norway) model or a straight free trade agreement (Canada). It hopes for bespoke access to the EU single market.
Yet for the EU only member states can benefit from the single market. They are bound by the four freedoms (including for people), by all EU law without choosing between different sectors or “baskets,” by the interpretation of these rules by the Court of Justice of the European Union, by the primacy of these rules over national laws, by sanctions for incorrect implementation, and so on.
These elements are sine qua non conditions for the single market to be credible for companies and investors, both in the EU and around the world. The 23rd March negotiation guidelines of the European Council are therefore clear.
First, a proper solution must be found for the Irish issue. Second, the British decision to leave the customs union and single market will have consequences. Non-EU members cannot have same rights as EU members. “A balanced, ambitious and wide ranging FTA” is the only solution. It “cannot however amount to participation in the SM or parts thereof.”
“The EU will not have the legal power to extend the transition period after Brexit”
This will have negative effects for Britain: in trade of goods, due to necessary checks and controls; in trade in services, due to the fact that “the Union and the UK will no longer share a common regulatory, supervisory, enforcement and judiciary framework”; in law enforcement and judicial cooperation; in participation in EU programmes; in cooperation…