What EU has prepared for Brexit talks
British judges may upset government plans to start Brexit talks soon but whatever the Supreme Court decides after hearings this week, the EU has prepared its side of the unprecedented process.
Timeline and the waiting
Theresa May’s formal notification of British withdrawal from the EU treaty under Article 50 is critical. EU counterparts rule out any negotiation before that. Article 50 sets a two-year countdown to Brexit. Without a deal Britain would be out of the EU but with many loose ends. The deadline can be extended, but only if there is mutual consent. May pledged two months ago to trigger Article 50 by late March. That would suit EU leaders who want a deal before an EU parliament election in May 2019. But London judges may upset the timetable, which could revive speculation May might use her power to delay notification to gain leverage in Brussels.
After getting May’s letter, European Council President Donald Tusk would convene a summit of the other 27 national leaders within a month or two to deliver a response and agree a mandate for the executive European Commission to negotiate. One issue in arguments in Britain over how withdrawal can be triggered following the non-binding referendum in June is whether London could change its mind later and stay in. The view in London is no but in Brussels most think it can..
The Brexit three-step
Divorce, transition, future. Barring a “cliff edge” falling out, Britain and the EU would agree withdrawal terms by 2019 and an interim deal to avoid needless disruption during negotiation of a new relationship that may take five more years. While there is a degree of consensus on what must be settled in the withdrawal treaty, which would need only majority backing among EU states, much beyond that is unclear, mainly because it is unclear what Britain will ask for. And any transition deal would depend on having some idea what it was a transition to- and it would probably have to be agreed by the 27 unanimously. Key parts of a future relationship will be terms of access to the EU single market for Britishbased firms and how far Britain will accept immigration from the continent, arbitration by EU judges and to pay into EU budgets in return for access.
These are the EU’s priorities for the withdrawal treaty: The house, bank accounts and pensions. The British state, businesses and citizens contribute to and receive from the EU budget. Negotiators need to divide the cash. After leaving, London may need to keep paying, for example to cover pensions of EU staff or previously agreed but yet to be disbursed spending. The EU will resist Britain getting a share of the value of the EU’s property-it didn’t pay extra when it joined, they say.
More than 3 million non-British EU citizens live in Britain and more than a million Britons live elsewhere in the EU. Neither side thinks mass deportations are desirable or likely. However, EU leaders’ hard line against a quick deal on this shows reluctance to give up a politically powerful card.
They need to settle customs measures for goods and probably special arrangements for the only UK-EU land border, on the island of Ireland. EU leaders fear upsetting the Irish peace settlement. But are wary lest favours for the Irish let the rest of the UK, or parts of it like similarly anti-Brexit Scotland, end up better off out of the EU than in it.
Among a host of lower-profile issues to be settled will be agreeing how to handle outstanding cases involving Britain at the European Court of Justice.
This is what in EU-speak is called ‘Chefsache’ - German for ‘a matter for the bosses’. Theresa May and her 27 counterparts will take the final decisions. However, the details will first have to be worked on by legions of lesser officials. Council President Tusk, a conservative former prime minister of Poland, will hold the ring for the other 27 states, assuming his mandate is renewed in May. He is expected to set up a Brexit Working Group to keep national leaders in the loop. President Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission will do the heavy lifting of detailed negotiation and legal drafting. Michel Barnier, a French former minister who irked London when financial services commissioner, runs the Commission’s Brexit Task Force. His deputy is German trade expert Sabine Weyand. The European Parliament must approve any deal. It will be represented in talks by Guy Verhofstadt, a liberal former Belgian prime minister seen in London as an arch eurofederalist. — Reuters
VIENNA: Austrian Presidential candidate Alexander Van der Bellen celebrates with supporters at a post-election event in Vienna. Austrian far-right candidate Norbert Hofer on Sunday congratulated his opponent in presidential elections after projections indicated that he had lost. — AFP
LONDON: Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Supreme Court building in London yesterday on the first day of a four-day hearing. — AFP