The Cicero Brexit Insights team is producing regular updates, comment and insight on both the broad themes and the technical detail of Brexit. We aim to give readers a clear view of the issues and challenges as they are seen in Brussels, London and Member States. As summer recess begins, both our UK and EU teams analyse the second round of Brexit negotiations.
After a difficult few weeks of plotting and sniping among the Cabinet and certain Conservative backbenchers, we’ve finally reached recess. Theresa May can breathe a sigh of relief as she heads off to Italy and the Swiss Alps for her summer holiday, although after the snap election brainwave thought up on her last walking holiday, others will hope that the break doesn’t result in more revolutionary ideas in September.
This week saw the second round of Brexit negotiations take place in Brussels. After the release of that photo of David Davis sitting across from his EU counterparts without any notes at all, the negotiations got off to a tricky start for the UK. And despite the UK Government’s best efforts to put a positive spin on things, with Davis labelling talks “constructive” and commenting that the UK is working “at pace”, the Brexit Secretary’s statement was otherwise vague on concrete achievements, leaving it difficult to be convinced by the apparent progress made. Commenting that identification of agreement or convergence on issues was only possible where there was “a clear British position”, Barnier made it clear that in his view, this was not actually in many areas at all. It seems that he is running out of patience with the UK’s apparent lack of preparation (see more on this point from the EU team below).
While negotiators laid bare their disagreements in Brussels, Theresa May met businesses at home, in the first meeting of her new business council. In a welcome move following the General Election result, this is part of May’s initiative to consult with businesses more widely on Brexit. The Council will have a rotating cast, and will meet every two or three months, but attendees are expected to include those most affected by Brexit.
It may be summer recess, but with the next round of negotiations beginning on the 28 August, the Brexit process rumbles on. And with the Government scheduling second reading of the Repeal Bill just two days after Parliament returns in September, MPs will also be busy over their summer preparing their positions on the Bill.
Senior Account Executive
This week the second round of Article 50 negotiations took place between the UK and EU, focusing on citizens’ rights, financial settlement and the border issue. On Thursday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, and David Davis, the UK’s Brexit Secretary, attended a press conference to summarise the progress made during the week. The EU negotiator was critical of what his team views as a lack of preparation on the UK’s side, given that it has not provided position papers on all but four policy areas. The absence of position papers on financial settlement and the Ireland-Northern Ireland border meant that very limited progress could be made on these issues. The UK negotiator, however, seemed optimistic about the outcome of the negotiations, stating that progress had been made by dealing with differences and reinforcing similarities.
There was some progress on the future status of EU citizens resident in the UK and UK citizens resident in EU member states. Both sides discussed a compromise that would give EU nationals a ‘right of return’ to the UK, allowing them to come back if they leave the country for more than two years. In return, UK nationals living in the EU would be allowed to move freely around the EU bloc, rather than being tied to the country in which they currently reside. This point indicates that, despite earlier assertions by the EU that there is no room for negotiation, it is possible to find solutions acceptable to both sides. Nevertheless, Barnier stated that there ‘remains a fundamental divergence’ on a host of issues, notably the UK’s intention to impose restrictions on family reunion of EU citizens and requiring deportation for certain criminal offences.
On the politically charged issue of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) involvement post-Brexit, there are indications that some progress could be made. Whilst the EU has yet to offer substantial concessions in this regard, Barnier hinted at a possible EFTA-style arbitration court that ‘would dovetail the ECJ.’ This would no doubt represent a compromise on the EU’s part, but does not align with the UK’s complete rejection of any future role of the ECJ in the UK’s legal system, as proposed in the Lancaster House speech. The UK would ultimately need to compromise and find middle ground, given that the EU negotiators are unwilling to accept the UK courts as being the sole guarantor of EU citizens’ rights in the UK. As the process develops and the timetable for Phase 2 approaches, the UK might see limited ECJ jurisdiction as a small price to pay for avoiding breakdown of the negotiations.
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