|Author Siona Watson (originally posted to Flickr as STP62099) |
Licence CC BY 2.0
Source Wikimedia Commons
In my December Brexit Briefing 9 Jan 2018 I wrote:
"To my great surprise and joy our government's representatives achieved sufficient progress in their negotiations with the Commission on citizens' rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement for the Commission to recommend to the Council that "sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom" (see the Commission's press release Brexit: European Commission recommends sufficient progress to the European Council (Article 50) 8 Dec 2017)."There are some, particularly in the UK, who regard Joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union that made it possible for the negotiations to move beyond citizens' rights, the financial settlement and Ireland as something of a fudge.
Whether or not that is the case, Monsieur Michel Barnier, the Chief Negotiator for the Commission, does not appear to be buying any, In a speech that he delivered on 9 Feb 2018, Monsieur Barnier noted that both sides acknowledge the need to preserve the Good Friday agreement but added
"it is important to tell the truth. A UK decision to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union would make border checks unavoidable."The British government appears to believe that there are "specific solutions to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland" but it has not yet announced what they are. In the meantime, the Commission seeks to include in the withdrawal agreement a guarantee that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in any circumstances.
In the same speech, Monsieur Barnier made clear that the offer of a transition or implementation period between 29 March 2019 and 31 Dec 2020 "is not a given." He flagged up plenty of potential deal breakers of which the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the resolution of any disputes on EU law, the rights of EU citizens who enter the UK during the implementation period, the British government's insistence on rights to object to new laws affecting its interests and to opt into new laws on Justice and Home Affairs are just a few.
If negotiations break down, the country will exit the EU in just over 14 months time without a deal. That would be a problem for many in the remaining member states but not a disaster. For the UK it could well be worse. If the BuzzFeed disclosures are to be believed, that would be the worst possible outcome for many regions of the UK and much of British industry.
Anyone wishing to discuss this article or Brexit in general should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.