This week has been a blizzard of events in Brussels and London. On Monday Theresa May went to the Commission expecting to sign a deal and move on to the next phase of the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU. Whilst enjoying a lunch with Jean Claude Juncker the DUP held a press conference and then, following a subsequent phone call to May, it was all over for the day.
As I wrote in the New Statesmen, the “have your cake and eat it” sloganeering is now crashing into hard reality and this was a great illustration. Nowhere has this been more apparent than Ireland. At the stroke of 23:00 on Brexit Day (note that Brexit happens at midnight, Brussels time) the border crashes into existence, unless a fix is found now. The Good Friday Agreement cannot be respected and there cannot be an open border in Ireland unless Northern Ireland is in the single market and customs union. (You can read the rest of my piece here: newstatesman.com/... )
The problem is real, and will not go away but after days of chasing, a suitably ambiguous form of words has been found:
In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom committed to maintaining full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North - South cooperation, the all - island economy, and the protection of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In this context, implementation and oversight mechanisms for the specific arrangements to be found will be established to safeguard the integrity of the internal market.
This means that unless the UK finds a miraculous solution to leaving the single market and the customs union then Northern Ireland will remain part of both in some way, either alongside the whole of the UK or not. Although my article was written before this was decided I stand by my comments: rhetoric is not enough and the realities of international trade law mean we need solutions now. The UK must start by showing real flexibility within itself and with the EU to allow the various democratic mandates and legal realities that exist within these isles to be respected. Though the obvious solution is for the entirety of the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union, differentiated solutions can work and may prove essential before we get to the end of this process.
Though not perfect, the deal also has some good news for EU citizens. The UK Government have conceded and the costs of the new ‘special status’ scheme must not exceed those imposed on UK nationals for issuing similar documents. Equally, those already holding a permanent residence document will be able to exchange it for the 'special status', free of charge. Finally, and most important, the European Court of Justice has a role overseeing the system to ensure it is fair. Remember, the issue is not closed but enough progress has been made to move forwards.
You can read the full report here: europa.eu/...
I agree that this is not as good as remaining in the EU, but the Commission (backed by the Parliament and Council) have forced the UK a long way to get here.
This has been a long introduction, and I haven’t even mentioned David Davis’s contempt for the UK Parliament or Philip Hammond confessing that Cabinet does not actually have a plan for the future yet… however, anybody interested can follow the links below. I warn you though, many of this week’s links are a product of their time and events have moved so fast that some have inevitably dated but are nevertheless insightful.
Remember, this is only the end of the beginning; having finally got passed the ‘easy’ issues we now get down to the tough negotiations!
You can read President Jean Claude Juncker’s speech following the announcement of this morning’s deal here:
As Dara Doyle notes, the UK’s fudge on the words will come back to haunt Theresa May.
Following the agreement with the Commission, the Council has confirmed it will vote on guidelines for the second phase of talks at the next meeting.
A draft of these envisages the UK remaining a member of the single market and customs union for the two-year transition after Brexit
The Scottish Government will stand by Ireland to help avoid any hard border.
This article from Caoimhín De Barra, assistant professor of Irish history, is a nice reminder that the UK is already a pretty diverse place, whatever the DUP assert.
This coverage from RTE explains the breakdown of talks on Monday.
Andrew Duff of the European Policy Centre wrote this insightful analysis after Monday’s events.
Hard Brexiteers have just discovered Britain is weaker than Ireland according to Fintan O'Toole.
David Davis confirmed, in a shambolic committee appearance, that despite all of his previous claims to the contrary there aren’t any impact assessments on Brexit. If this is true it is remarkable. How can the UK government not have set about producing these immediately after the referendum was announced?
David Allen Green produced this excellent history of the 58 sectoral analyses.
Later that day, Philip Hammond revealed that the Cabinet had yet to discuss, let alone approve, any plan for Brexit after 2019. It is frankly unbelievable that we are being led by people who by their own admission do not know what they are doing.
Scotland has been chosen (with País Vasco) to co-ordinate an EU funded network of Marine Energy projects. This is Scotland leading collaboration across Europe in a key energy sector. I hope that we continue to do so.
The EU has been busy getting on with securing trade deals. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and Japan was also completed.
And one with the Mercosur countries is coming along well.
Universities in the UK are suffering from a cut in funding because of the decision to the leave the EU.
Confederation of British Industry President Paul Drechsler has warned we are reaching a key turning point for Business: “every day, companies are having to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. They are making choices that will determine new jobs, new plants and new investments in the years ahead. Businesses will press snooze for as long as they can - but the alarm will go off,”
The House of Lords EU committee has produced an analysis of the various deal or no deal scenarios. It concludes that: “no deal would not only be economically damaging, but would bring an abrupt end to cooperation between the UK and EU on issues such as counter-terrorism, police and security and nuclear safeguards. It would also necessitate the imposition of controls at the Irish land border.”
A second EU referendum is now backed by half of the UK according to an opinion poll by Survation.
The National Centre for Social Research and the UK in a Changing Europe project have published a report analysing voters’ opinions on the negotiations: over half of all those asked now think that we will get a bad deal.
The Scottish Parliament has produced this handy timeline of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.
Finally, David Martin, Labour MEP for Scotland, wrote this outline of the state of play in November. His plea that there “is still time to create a saner Brexit” seems more pertinent than ever!