Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Best that can be achieved from the Withdrawal Agreement Negotiations and the Likelihood of achieving it

Jane Lambert

In Hope for the best but prepare for the worst 22 June 2018, I advised businesses of all kinds to make risk assessments and draw up contingency plans for the UK's departure from the EU without a withdrawal agreement.  Comparing what needs to be done before 29 March 2019 with what has been achieved to date it has become increasingly unlikely that such an agreement can be concluded and ratified in time. 

The remaining 27 member states appear to be of a similar view.  In a statement following the Council meeting of 28 and 29 June 2018 President Tusk said:
"On Brexit. The EU27 has taken note of what has been achieved so far. However, there is a great deal of work ahead, and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved. If we want to reach a deal in October we need quick progress. This is the last call to lay the cards on the table."
This was amplified in the  Conclusions of the Council of 29 June 2018. 

While the governments of the remaining 27 member states welcomed the progress mentioned in the  joint statement from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union, they noted that "other important aspects still need to be agreed, including the territorial application of the Withdrawal Agreement, notably as regards Gibraltar." They expressed concern that no substantial progress had been achieved on a backstop solution for the Irish border despite British commitments made in December 2017 and March 2018, and that negotiations can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken so far are respected in full.

The remaining member states also concluded that work must be accelerated with a view to preparing a political declaration on the framework for a future relationship between the UK and EU.  Such a political declaration would have to appear in a withdrawal agreement because the EU 27 made plain in paragraph 6 of their Guidelines of 15 Dec 2017 that an agreement on a future partnership can only be concluded after the UK leaves the EU.  In paragraph 8 of their Guidelines of 23 March 2018 the 27 remaining states emphasized that although they were prepared to countenance a  "balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging free trade agreement" such an agreement could not offer the same benefits as EU membership and or allow participation in the single market or parts thereof.  

It could, however, cover such matters as:
"i) trade in goods, with the aim of covering all sectors and seeking to maintain zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions with appropriate accompanying rules of origin. In the overall context of the FTA, existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained;
ii) appropriate customs cooperation, preserving the regulatory and jurisdictional autonomy of the parties and the integrity of the EU Customs Union;
iii) disciplines on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures;
iv) a framework for voluntary regulatory cooperation;
v) trade in services, with the aim of allowing market access to provide services under host state rules, including as regards right of establishment for providers, to an extent consistent with the fact that the UK will become a third country and the Union and the UK will no longer share a common regulatory, supervisory, enforcement and judiciary framework;
vi) access to public procurement markets, investments and protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications, and other areas of interest to the Union."
There could also be collaboration on climate change, sustainable development and pollution control. Agreement could be reached on free movement of people, recognition of professional qualifications and judicial cooperation, transport and scientific research and development.

Such an agreement would go a long way towards ensuring the continuation of integrated manufacturing in industries like motor manufacturing and aerospace and the provision of financial and professional services by the city of London. That is the best possible outcome that could be hoped for.  Both sides want it but it is increasingly unlikely that they will be able to deliver it by the end of March.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or Brexit in general should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

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