Can the UK and EU reach a deal on key Brexit issues this year?

David Davis is due to continue talks next week with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator over the UK’s exit bill. The chances of making a breakthrough this year are looking increasing unlikely. Despite Theresa May’s offered compromises, the EU believes that the British PM has not gone far enough and will undoubtedly be concerned over her weakened position.

It’s in the interest of the European Union to offer some positive support to Theresa May who has begun to move away from her tough negotiating stance and therefore maintain momentum on the talks. The prime minister has offered that the UK will pay €20bn into the EU budget as the price of a transition deal. There also has been movement on the British position recognising that European law will have a “direct effect” in protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Nonetheless, the EU will be concerned that the UK does not know what it wants. Internal disagreement amongst the UK cabinet and conservative party needs to be sorted and agreement on the future relationship with Europe must first be agreed before effective negotiations can be achieved. There is a concern over how long this will take and indeed whether it can ever be achieved.

The EU are likely to aim to have the divorce issues agreed during the EU leaders summit in mid-December. The expectation is that the UK will make some further concessions during the next two weeks in the areas of citizen’s rights and the role of the European Court of Justice. However, many sources indicate that little progress will be made on the Brexit divorce bill and Ireland. Nonetheless, the EU have made it clear that they will not discuss trade until sufficient progress has been made on the divorce issues.

Overall, with recent changes in UK positioning, many commentators are of the opinion that Britain is moving close to something that looks like the 1972 European Communities Act – the legislation that took Britain into Europe.

Dr. Ray NultyComment