How the UK has completely capitulated on two of the EU’s three key issues
Posted by Geoff Bishop.
Written by Kathleen Nutt.
THE European Union has repeatedly underlined that Brexit talks with the UK Government could not proceed to a second phase of discussing a future trade deal until the UK came up with satisfactory proposals on the money it owes the EU, the Irish border and citizens’ rights.
After much bombast from Brexiteers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who infamously responded that EU leaders could “go whistle”, if they expected the UK to hand over any large sum of money for withdrawing from the EU, the UK Government has caved in on the first issue and moved substantially closer to the EU position on Ireland. Only citizens’ rights remain as yet unclear in terms of agreement.
THERESA May initially made an offer of £20 billion to the EU, but this was swiftly rejected, forcing her to go back to her Cabinet and come up with a better one. A renewed offer came last week.
While Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss described the news that May was proposing to hand over up to £55bn as “media speculation” it is widely believed the reports were correct.
The proposal on money essentially ensures the UK fully honours its financial commitments as identified by Brussels, paying for its share of European projects up to the end of the current EU budget in 2020, and also its share of ongoing pension liabilities for EU staff and MEPs.
The UK is planning to avoid a lump-sum settlement and will instead develop a system for regularly calculating payments in years to come, when specific liabilities are due. It means the payments could be made over decades.
Last week’s reports suggested May won the backing of her Cabinet to break the deadlock in talks with an increased financial offer, but on the condition it was tied to a good trade agreement.
THE second obstacle to trade talks has been the border on Ireland. At the outset, May repeatedly insisted Northern Ireland would be leaving the EU in the same way as the rest of the UK, coming out of both the single market and the customs union.
But she was forced to cave in after warnings by politicians in the north and the south that the physical infrastructure involved in a hard border would be a target for paramilitaries, undermining the fragile peace process that has existed since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The EU swung behind the Republic of Ireland in its demand that no hard border returned to the island. Earlier yesterday, it appeared the UK had agreed a position with the EU that would allow Northern Ireland to effectively remain in the single market and customs union, but the deal seemed to be scuppered after it emerged Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster hadn’t been told about it. Foster, whose party signed a £1.5bn deal to prop up the minority Tory Government, said her party would not agree to any measures that gave Northern Ireland a different Brexit settlement from any other part of the UK.