Theresa May’s government breathed an audible – if temporary – sigh of relief as late night talks with the EU on Thursday resulted in a breakthrough that clears the way for phase two of Brexit negotiations to begin. In a press conference on Friday morning, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “sufficient progress” had been made on the three preliminary issues that needed to be addressed before talks could move on to the future relationship between Britain and the EU once the UK leaves the bloc in 2019. On the issue of citizen’s rights the two parties agreed that EU citizens living in the UK will be under the jurisdiction of UK courts, but cases that can’t be resolved by UK judges can be referred to the European Court of Justice for a period of eight years after withdrawal. A settlement of the so-called Brexit bill was also reached. Although the final figure has yet to be announced, estimates put it in the region of £40 billion. This will include payment into the EU budget until the end of the current cycle in 2019 and meeting obligations to pension payments of British EU employees. On the question of Northern Ireland which precipitated the last minute crunch talks it was agreed that there will be no hard border and Northern Ireland will be leaving the customs union along with the rest of the UK. It was Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose ten MPs prop up the minority Conservative government in Westminster, that scuttled an earlier agreement that called for regulatory alignment between Belfast and Dublin. The DUP objected to this wording on the grounds that it treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK. The problem was resolved by new wording which clarifies that the regulatory alignment will apply to all of the UK. Talks on a two-year transition arrangement to be put in place before a new trade deal is hammered out will begin in the new year.
Friday, 8 December, 2017 - 23:28