Brexit negotiations have reached an impasse. The third round of negotiations was concluded yesterday without sufficient progress on key points of the withdrawal agreement: citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.
The joint technical note comparing the EU and the UK respective positions on citizens’ rights after the 3rd round reveals that no progress was made in the points of disagreement, such as the direct enforceability of the provisions of the withdrawal agreement concerning individual rights by the respective courts.
Moreover, the financial settlement remains one of the most contentious points. The Commission calls the UK to respect the financial commitments undertaken by the UK jointly with the other 27 Member States before Third Countries as well as in the framework of the EU Regional Development Fund, which go beyond the exit date. The UK, however, stated no payments will be made to the EU budget after the withdrawal. Nonetheless, both sides acknowledge that progress was made on the issue of the Ireland border, including on a common travel area and the Good Friday Agreement.
Despite this advance, negotiators will have a hard time to bridge the divides separating the EU and the UK stances on citizens’ rights and on the financial settlement in time for the October European Council, when heads of State or government of the 27 Member States are expected to evaluate whether or not sufficient progress was made on the terms of the withdrawal agreement. A delay on the 1st phase of the negotiating process would leave barely a year to discuss a transitional arrangement and the future trade relationship before the exit date. On this point, Michel Barnier criticized the UK proposals, accusing the UK of trying to retain the benefits of the single market and customs union membership, while being outside: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations but it also wants to have these standards recognized automatically in the EU. That is what the UK papers ask for. This is simply impossible”.
This third round illustrates the complexity and the unique nature of the Brexit negotiations. The short time frame established in article 50 TEU makes the work of negotiators even more challenging. Where these talks will lead is still uncertain. However, it is clear that businesses from both sides of the channel would be better off with an agreement between the two partners instead of a hard Brexit.