Getting to the end of stage one of the negotiations will soon look like what it is—the easy bitby Kirsty Hughes / December 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
Last week, the UK and the European Union struck a first stage Brexit withdrawal deal. The EU decided that talks had made sufficient progress on the three key subjects of EU citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement such that, pending approval from the EU27 at the European summit starting today, talks can now move on to the future relationship.
But there’s a problem. The EU-UK deal agreed last week contains multiple contradictions. That will lead to plenty of rows in the first few months of 2018, as “phase two” talks get going. The coming summit is expected to move talks onto the thorny question of transition—while any trade discussions will be put off until March. On both of these, there is scope for some serious fallings out.
So, first up will be a transition row—likely to span January and February 2018. The UK is seeking a transitional deal so as to give space for government, business and other actors to adjust to being outside the EU. The idea is that Britain will after leaving the EU in 2019 enter a sort of “halfway house” before full exit later on.
The EU27 are most likely to offer a short two to three year transition. At the EU summit, guidelines will probably be issued insisting that during any such period, the UK must be fully under the EU’s existing acquis of laws, regulations, judicial overview and more but with the catch that, since the UK will have formally left the EU in March 2019, it won’t get any voting rights.
The UK government will probably want some exceptions from EU rules while cherry-picking the best bits of keeping to them during the transition. But this is unlikely to be offered by the EU27—nor would the European Parliament go along with it. Overall, the EU27 have made clear that during any transition, the UK must meet all rules of the EU single market and customs union. Theresa May is likely, in the end, to accept this.
What’s more, if the UK does stay in the customs union for the interim period, the EU is likely to argue that it cannot at the same time negotiate future trade deals with other countries. All this will be hotly debated.
What else? Both Labour and the SNP…