On Monday 19 June the Brexit negotiations began, led on the EU side by Michel Barnier and on the UK side by David Davis. Both parties initially announced their expectations, conditions and guidelines for the negotiations, which should be concluded before March 29, 2019.
Brexit negotiations will involve three separate but interconnected deals: a ‘divorce’ bill, a transitional deal and an agreement on the UK-EU’s long-term relationship.
The parties’ position up to this moment in each one of the main issues being negotiated, is the following:
- Divorce bill. In order to leave the EU, UK is expected to pay off its share of the EU liabilities. The UK’s obligations can be categorized under four groups: outstanding budget commitments, EU officials’ pensions, contingent liabilities and the “specific costs related to the withdrawal process” (which would cover the relocation of London-based EU agencies after Brexit, among others). Michel Barnier claimed initially that the European Commission seek an exit bill of €60 billion, but there isn’t yet an official estimation.
- Citizenship. This is one of the most polemical points of Brexit negotiations. The EU defends that all EU citizens living in the UK at Brexit, and all UK citizens living in the EU, must have the same rights as now. However, that would mean the protection of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is Theresa May’s main red line in the negotiations: according to her, the ECJ will under no circumstance have jurisdiction in the UK after Brexit.
- Trade: EU leaders have said there won´t be talks on Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU until the UK government makes sufficient progress on the Brexit divorce, including settling completely its bills and citizens’ rights.
- Security: Both parties agree on the importance of a deep secure partnership. UK has stated its intention to continue to support EU military operations and sanctions efforts after Brexit.
- Ireland and Northern Ireland: Both sides agree that Brexit should not affect the peace process or cross-border trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK, which plans to leave the EU’s customs union, has said it wants an “unprecedented solution”, avoiding physical checks at the borders. However, EU have accused the UK plans of “magical thinking”.
- Other areas of cooperation: The UK is keen to maintain active cooperation in a number of areas, especially medicines and science. Furthermore, UK has reversed an earlier decision to leave the EU’s nuclear energy programme, even if that means to accept a limited role for the ECJ, so this dynamic still has the potential to change the direction of Brexit negotiations.
Although there have been agreements on some technical points, no decisive progress has been made on any of the main issues: there is still a lot to be negotiated to know where everything stands in post-Brexit Britain and in an EU that excludes the UK.