Andy jalil –
By all accounts the talks between the UK Brexit Minister David Davis and the EU negotiator Michel Barnier have not made sufficient progress even after the fifth round of talks which ended in ‘deadlock’. While Davis is very keen to move on to discussions on a trade deal after Britain’s exit from the EU, Barnier wants to see some agreement on the payment the UK makes as part of settlement before departure.
A lack of progress in talks 15 months after Britain voted to leave the EU has added pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May.
While Brussels appears to prepare for a collapse in the negotiations and the UK is getting ready for “every eventuality”, some officials and business chiefs are concerned Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal.
Speaking in parliament, May said her negotiators had made progress in the first phase of talks, tackling the rights of expatriates and the Irish Border, and that she was determined to secure a new partnership with the other 27 members of the political and trade bloc.
While the issue of the Border —between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland — is of vital importance to Ireland, the country was concerned that it was largely absent from discussions at the British Conservative Party conference last week.
There was just a talk about it by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, to a smaller audience.
A UK government source said: “It reflects the general level of ignorance from the delegates as to how much they care about the Irish question.
If it was such a major issue May would have agreed for the UK to stay in the customs union (as part of its negotiation).” According to some British sources, there is a feeling the Irish question could be solved with the help of the Irish government.”
A paper published by the UK government last week said the “most complex” areas to find a solution for, are the Irish Border and the movement in the ports.
It said for the individual travellers crossing the Irish Border, the aim is to keep the tax processes as close as possible to what they are now.
It also said, however, it would seek to be flexible regarding the border arrangements between the North and the South, without going further to say what it meant.
“Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, including a contingency scenario, the UK government will have flexibility to determine its own border arrangements for the purpose of goods movements, while remaining consistent with its international obligations,” it said.
The UK announcement came as the Revenue Commissioners declined to publish an internal working paper which set out the scale of the impact of Brexit in Ireland if a Border (control) is reintroduced with everything from the postal service to the Ploughing Championship affected, heaping a major financial burden on businesses.
With considerable disparity still regarding progress on negotiations between the UK and the EU, the concern keeps growing in Ireland.
The ‘summit’ talks this week in Brussels is the deadline for which “significant progress” has to be made on the three key areas around the UK’s departure from the EU before a decision can be made by the bloc to move on to the next phase which will open up trade talks.
These key areas involve an agreement on the financial settlement by which the UK settles its budgetary and other commitments during its 44-year membership of the union.
The other two areas relate to the guaranteeing of rights of the three million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, and importantly, the issue of how to manage the Irish Border.
Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioners says a recently quoted report into the major impact of Brexit on Ireland was written back in 2016 and did not take into account the “many developments and papers written since then.” However, given the fact there has yet to be agreement on key areas regarding the affect of Brexit, many of the concerns documented within the report are still relevant.
Since the revenue report the Irish Government has stressed it is committed to avoiding a ‘hard’ Brexit or any physical infrastructure to deal with customs.
That commitment is shared by the UK.
(The author is our foreign correspondent based in the UK. He can be reached at email@example.com)