What EU has pre­pared for Brexit talks

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

The kids

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.

The ne­go­tia­tors

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

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