External Affairs

Summing up the Battles on the Theatre of Brexit

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier hold a joint news conference after the round of Brexit talks in Brussels, Belgium July 20, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis and European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier hold a joint news conference after the round of Brexit talks in Brussels, Belgium, July 20, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

British and European Union negotiators have laid out their disagreements after a first week of talks on a treaty to disentangle the country from the EU in 2019 while limiting disruption to the economy and people’s lives.

Here’s what look to be the crunch points for now:

Money, money, money

EU says: Britain must pay a share of money the EU committed to spend when it was a member state and this will have to be paid after it leaves on March 30, 2019. The EU executive has floated a ballpark figure of 60 billion euros ($70 billion).

UK says: “Exorbitant; Go whistle for it”. It will make “a fair settlement of rights and obligations”. A pledge last week that mutual rights and obligations would persist after Brexit was a goodwill gesture. But London refuses to state in public that this means a net flow of cash from it to Brussels.

The crunch: The EU wants Britain to make a counter-offer of how its bill should be settled and warns that failure to compromise on a “methodology” for calculating it would stymie British hopes of the EU opening talks later this year on post-tertiary free trade.

The expiate life

EU says: EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit, as well as their future relatives, must enjoy all current rights for life and keep them even if they spend some years back in the EU. Britons in Europe would be treated similarly by host EU states but would not keep those rights in another EU country.

UK says: Current EU expatriates in Britain would have the same rights as Britons, which in some cases would mean weaker rights than they now enjoy. Britain also wants a cut-off date for keeping rights as early as March 2017, and future children, spouses etc may not have same rights as now. It wants Britons in Europe to keep their rights if they move from one member state to another.

The crunch: There’s a degree of bartering to be done here. Both sides say they are aiming for the same, reciprocal arrangements that will not badly hurt 4.5 million current expatriates. But detail on these and issues such as social security flows are complex.

Tell it to the judge

EU says: Citizens’ rights and the whole withdrawal treaty must be overseen by EU rules and the European Court of Justice.

UK says: No way. Britons voted last year to end shared EU sovereignty. British judges are trusted worldwide and will hold this and future governments to international treaty obligations.

The crunch: This could be the biggest headache. The EU says it has no legal choice; Britain says its plan cannot fly politically. Both sides must scope out an acceptable landing zone. Some kind of joint tribunal, such as the EFTA court for non-EU Norway and others, is cited. But, the EU says, that still follows the ECJ.

Smoothly does it

EU says: It is ready for Britain to drop out of all EU laws in March 2019, deal or no deal, but expects some kind of transition phase to give time to negotiate a free trade deal. Any transition would have to be strictly time-limited.

UK says: It is also ready for a disruptive “cliff edge” exit but, assuming both sides can see a future close relationship, would be ready for “implementation” periods of a couple of years.

The crunch: There is unlikely to be much detail until trade talks get under way and both sides sketch out their future relationship ideas. But businesses are clamouring now for detail on post-tertiary arrangements and big money is at stake on both sides.

Peace in Ireland:

EU says: It wants to avoid a “hard” border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland disrupting peace. But it also wants to avoid undermining its single market.

UK says: Ditto to peace and no threat to the single market.

The crunch: Again, don’t expect much until after trade talks start since those will determine border arrangements. But the island’s history and political problems in the north have every ingredient to turn this into a Brexit nightmare.

(Reuters)