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Analysis

5 new things that could make or break Brexit talks

by Luke Lythgoe | 10.11.2017

Another round of Brexit negotiations, another press conference devoid of “sufficient progress”. David Davis and Michel Barnier give the impression little has moved on during the sixth round of talks. But there’s plenty of activity from frustrated players behind the scenes, much of which could prove make or break.

1. Two-week time bomb

The next European Council meeting of the other 27 EU members, where talks can be moved on, will be December 14 and 15. But in reality the British will have to make a better offer within two weeks if they want to hit the deadline, as Barnier pointed out.

Despite both sides hinting at an acceleration of talks, it’s been almost a month since Davis and Barnier last stood at their podiums. They need to get a move on. If the December deadline is missed, the next summit is at the end of March.

2. May willing to pay?

Theresa May could finally be willing to shift on the Brexit ‘divorce bill’, according to reports in the FT today. To break the deadlock she’ll need to stump up as much as another €30 billion on top of the €20 billion she suggested in her Florence speech. Tory Eurosceptics have started to accept that, in the grand scheme of things, this may be a small enough price to pay to be “free”. One senior Brexiter told the FT: “It’s money down the back of the sofa.”

3. Ireland applying border pressure

Dublin has toughened its stance, suggesting Northern Ireland staying in the customs union is the only way to maintain an open Irish border, according to a European Commission paper. Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, says he’s seeking “assurances and written guarantees” from the UK in the coming weeks. Ireland’s foreign minister has also called for a longer, five-year transition period.

The border proposal has been rejected by both the Democratic Unionist Party and Davis, who said any deal “cannot amount to creating a new border inside our United Kingdom.”

4. US or EU: Britain must decide

On Monday the US commerce secretary told Britain a trade deal with the US meant a break from EU regulations – and all the chlorine-bathed chickens that entailed. Barnier made clear that such deregulation would restrict the kind of relationship the UK could have with the EU after Brexit, and that London needed to be clear about this now.

5. European Parliament’s thick red lines

Theresa May insists a deal on citizens’ rights is within “touching distance”. The European Parliament disagrees, saying many controversial issues are yet to be agreed: family reunification; exporting social benefits abroad; criminal checks; the cost of registering for residency; the role of the ECJ. Barnier echoed many of these today. Failure to nail them down will mean no “sufficient progress” in time for December.

All these problems might be overcome, considering how desperate the government is to move the talks on. But May hasn’t even discussed the UK’s ultimate end game with her Cabinet yet. She probably realises this will ignite a whole new set of fires.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “5 new things that could make or break Brexit talks”

  • Actually, on point 4, I think it’s been a mistake to allow so much attention to be focused on chlorine-washed chickens: that’s a relatively trivial issue on its own, it’s what it symbolises is the danger of the potential lack of proper regulation that’s the real issue. So by concentrating on the chickens, the impression is left that that is all there is. It most definitely isn’t!

  • The chlorine-washed chicken issue is a complete red herring.

    For 3 reasons:

    1. Consumer demand for chlorine-washed chicken will determine whether shops sell it or not.

    2. Chlorine-washing is already prevalent in pre-packed salads, etc.

    3. EU food standards allowed horsemeat to be sold as beef in unknown quanities for years. Likewise, the egg scandal in the Netherlands.

  • This perhaps isn’t the place, but could someone ask Ian Duncan Smith for chapter and verses for his statement that tge CJEU decisions are always in the direction of ever closer union. Why does the BBC never ask anyone for evidence of their assertions?

  • Totally agree with last comment…to my knowledge this was the first time that IDS has made any attempt to explain why on earth May’s government has made the ECJ such a red line. His claims don’t hold water and yet the BBC didn’t bother to challenge him.

  • “1. Consumer demand for chlorine-washed chicken will determine whether shops sell it or not.

    2. Chlorine-washing is already prevalent in pre-packed salads, etc.

    3. EU food standards allowed horsemeat to be sold as beef in unknown quanities for years. Likewise, the egg scandal in the Netherlands.”

    1. If they know. If we ask the US to label the products as such, that is a trade barrier. When the EU were working on a package for this, the US poultry trade groups conceded this unhappily. When it failed to go through they said that the measure had gone too far.

    2. The Chlorine wash is as much to do with animal conditions, subsequently, how lettuce is treated with it is not really the point.

    3. No, it didn’t. It was being sold by a fraudster against the law.