Brexit talks: where are the negotiations up to?

At the end of the sixth round of negotiations, Michel Barnier says the UK have two weeks to make concessions if they intend to move on to trade discussions by the end of the year. How much still divides the UK and the EU? We summarise the evolution of the talks

The first item to be concluded was a disagreement about whether trade talks could run in parallel to 'divorce' talks; the UK said yes, and the EU said no. On the first day of negotiations, Britain conceded the point.

The EU says simply that it wants all EU citizens living in the UK at Brexit, and all UK citizens living in the EU, to enjoy the same rights as now. But that would mean the protection of the European Court of Justice (ECJ or CJEU), which is Theresa May's main red line in the talks

Britain has committed to EU spending in the 'multi-annual financial framework' or MFF; the EU budget for 2014 - 2020. It also has commitments to financial funds, aid programmes and to EU employee pensions. In some cases, withdrawal will mean the return of money to Britain, but the balance will be negative. UK politicians will find it hard to make a deal which involves a big one-off payment to Brussels, or payments which continue for many years into the future. The EU has set out a detailed list of financial entanglements, but the real debate is likely to focus more on how they are unwound, and over what timescales

The EU has been keen to settle early on the question of dispute resolution after Brexit; if for instance, a trade agreement bound the UK not to subsidise its steel industry, who would decide if infrastructure spending around a plant amounted to subsidy? The EU's starting position is that the ECJ is its court, but Britain's (or at least May's) opening stance was that the ECJ would have no jurisdiction in the UK after Brexit

On trade, both sides say they want frictionless, tariff-free movement of goods. But the EU is adamant that membership of the single market must mean freedom of movement, and the UK is adamant that no deal can include jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice (ECJ or CJEU) in Britain.

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The EU has always placed Northern Ireland and its relationship with the Irish Republic on the same footing as the other major areas of the talks. Both sides agree in principle that Brexit should not affect the peace process or cross-border trade, but the details will be bound up in what deal is reached on customs and freedom of movement elsewhere

The UK is keen to maintain active cooperation in a number of areas, especially medicines and science, where the alternatives would be to create its own expensive regulators to duplicate EU activity. Early in the talks this led to the prospect of reversing an earlier decision to leave Euratom, the EU's nuclear energy programme, even if that meant accepting a limited role for the ECJ, so this miscellany still has the potential to change the direction of the other strands

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November 20, 2017

Sources:` The Guardian

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