All quiet at the talks, so far

All quiet at the talks, so far

According to the Daily Express the EU is at war with itself: “Brussels cracks as Brexit and member states tear apart united front”. The sub-editing desk seems to have as poor a grasp on syntax (‘apart’ should be at the end of that sentence) as it does on political reality. We recommend a calm, well-balanced report on the current state of EU-UK talks from FTI Consulting: “Brexit Perspective: Deal or no Deal?

The first meeting in June simply set up a monthly talks structure and accepted the EU’s two-stage procedure structure. This time, 98 British civil servants arrived in Brussels to swap papers on the three issues of the first stage.

The British civil servants have to cover three separate negotiating groups:

  • Citizenship issues – rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa
  • Divorce proceedings, starting with the financial settlement
  • A special group to deal with the EU external border in Ireland.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reported some progress on citizenship, but with a crucial caveat: jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in enforcing rights. The European Parliament, however, was unimpressed with the British offer on citizenship: its Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt threatened to veto any deal based on it.

Barnier was distinctly less positive on the financial issue: an orderly withdrawal means accounts must be settled and the UK needs to clarify its position, he said.

The report gives little sustenance to the Daily Express view: “The unity of the Commission and of the EU-27 has been a striking feature of the talks to date.” Interestingly, it records that Barnier sits with a great stack of notes while on British Brexit Secretary David Davis’s side of the table, “there is a notable absence of paperwork”.

In the August meeting each will respond to papers presented this month.