Pause in Brexit Talks despite Pledges Raises Concerns as October Deadline Looms
A somewhat unexpected pause has occurred in the negotiations on Brexit between the European Union and the UK despite last week’s pledges by both sides of “continuous” talks.
No official Brexit meetings have been held between London and Brussels since last Wednesday, The Independent reports.
Early last week, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab met in Brussels, and declared that the talks had entered their “final stage” and that they would be kept up as significant issues are yet to be tackled.
“At the moment we have not got a meeting we can confirm as yet,” a spokesperson for the European Commission told reporters in Brussels at lunchtime on Tuesday, answering a question whether any Brexit negotiation meetings had been planned.
Meanwhile, an official from the UK’s Department for Exiting the European Union suggested there would be meetings on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Britain is supposed to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. That would be followed by 1.5-year-long transition period, until December 31, 2020 but only if any kind of a withdrawal agreement, or at least a joint Brexit declaration (the criticized “blind Brexit” option) is made.
The EU has demanded that a withdrawal agreement, more commonly known as a Brexit deal, be negotiated by October 2018 to allow the British and European Parliaments enough time to vote on it.
The thorniest issue in the Brexit talks remains the Ireland – Northern Ireland border, and the question of a “backstop” deal to prevent a hard border.
The Irish government has said a withdrawal agreement without a border backstop would “be of no use”, thus practically threatening a no-deal. The European Parliament has explicitly threatened to veto a Brexit deal over the issue.
The UK has turned down EU suggestions that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU customs area, while the EU itself has made it clear that alternative solutions put forth by London would not prevent a hard border.
The other overwhelming issue in the EU – UK Brexit talks remains the future trade relationship between the two.
According to Barnier, the only way to maintain the EU – UK trade without any hurdles would be for the latter to form a customs union with the former, follow the rules of the EU single market, and accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
These terms have been rejected by May, and an arrangement of the sort is deemed unlikely to be ratified by the British Parliament.
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