A month ago, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has detailed the sixth round of negotiations. He says progress is needed on financial settlement as Irish border issue emerges as challenge for British government. Explanations.
Irish border, citizens’ rights & divorce bill
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has set the British government a deadline of two weeks to give « vital » clarification on the financial commitments it is willing to honour. At the end of this sixth round of Brexit talks, scant evidences of any progress have been seen.
At a joint press conference in Brussels on Friday 10 November, David Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary, implored Barnier and the 27 member states to be more flexible and to move on to discussions about a future relationship between the two countries. But since the beginning, Michel Barnier has made it clear that the EU wanted its money back before everything else. Money first, relationships after.
Consequently, he insisted on the fact that the decision would be made bu the EU27 at a leaders’ summit this month, and that it would be « absolutely vital » to hear soon from Britain on its approximately €60bn (£53bn) divorce bill. He repeatedly asked for « real and sincere progress« .
The issue of the border with Ireland has also emerged as a serious challenge for the UK’s government. The Irish population demands an urgent and definite commitment : Northern Ireland should be kept in the single market and customs union to ensure there is no return to a hard border. The island has suffer from conflicts all along in the XXth centuries and wants to protect the peace between its two parts. To Barnier, the citizens’ rights and the Irish border are two key points in these talks, as well as, of course, the divorce bill.
EU leaders need to decide at a summit on 14th and 15th December wether sufficient progress has been made on preliminary issues to allow the talks to move on to future relations, a stage Britain is desperate to reach.
Despite claims from both sides to accelerate the Brexit negotiations after the October’s summit, no significant movement appears to have been made by either side to allow the talks to develop.
Davis simply repeated what Theresa May had said in her speech in Florence : « There is no doubt that we have made and continue to make, including in this round, significant progress on a whole range of issues… That will continue at pace between now and December and I hope it will lead to sufficient progress« .
Davis has explained that the specific position of Northern Ireland would not allow it to stay within the customs union or the single market. He disagrees with the Irish Taoiseach on this point. He respects « the EU desire to protect the legal order of the single market. But that cannot come at cost of the constitutional integrity of the UK« . » This cannot create a new border » he added.
Arrangements acceptable to the EU would include those adapted for Hong Kong or Macau, which are part of China, but also individual members of the WTO operating different trade regimes.
Moreover, the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, noted that the Isle of Man was not a member of either the UK or the EU, and traded with each under a protocol to the Treaty of Rome and applying EU laws.
Time will tell what will happen!
The press conference is available here