UK Select Committee Report - 'Progress of the UK's negotiations on EU withdrawal' finds insufficient progress has been made to meet the Art. 50 deadline.

London

The Parliamentary Committee overseeing the UK’s Exit from the European Union published its second report today, 18 March 2018.

It makes recommendations with regard to the Draft Withdrawal Agreement; transition period; and the future partnership with the EU.

In their report, the Committee considers: the current state of the negotiations; the short period remaining to Brexit (12 months); and the work to date on planning and preparing for Brexit.

The Committee cannot see how a deal addressing everything that is needed for Brexit can be negotiated in the time remaining.  They conclude, therefore, that the Government should consider whether an extension to the Article 50 is needed.

Just a few of the open issues, for instance, include: Citizens' rights; the Northern Ireland border; a whole range of separation issues; and the shape of the UK's future economic relationship with the EU. 

To date, there has been little progress made on solving the problem of how to maintain an ‘open’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the UK leaves the Customs Union and the Single Market.  This is defined as a border with no checks and no infrastructure.

The Committee supports that the Government's rejection of the European Commission's interpretation of a fall-back position of ‘full alignment’ - as set out in the EU draft Withdrawal Agreement (February 2018).  They note that the UK Government has not yet explained what ‘full alignment’ means for the UK.  They have set out a number of questions for Ministers on this issue. They recommend that – because the government is unhappy with sections of the draft withdrawal agreement - it should produce its own draft legal text.

The Government proposes that EU citizens arriving in the UK will have different rights to EU citizens that were living in the UK before the start of the transition period.  The Committee states that this is inconsistent with ‘full acceptance’ that is fundamental to the transition period.

If substantive issues remain to be agreed by October 2018, the UK Government should seek a limited extension to Article 50 in order to ensure the Agreement is sufficiently detailed and comprehensive.

Chair of the Committee, Hilary Benn MP, said: "We are now at a critical stage in the negotiations.  [There are] just seven months left to reach agreement on a whole host of highly complex issues.

“The Government must now come forward with credible, detailed proposals as to how it can operate a 'frictionless border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At the moment, the Committee is not persuaded that this can be done as the UK is leaves the single market and the customs union.”

No international border, other than the internal borders of the EU, operates without checks and physical infrastructure.

David Davis has now accepted the EU proposal for a transition period of 21 months in order to secure a deal.  However, this is too short a time to conclude a comprehensive agreement.  If there is a 'no deal' scenario – it represents a significant danger to the UK.

The Committee examined several different types of trade and partnership agreements that the EU has with ‘third countries’ - and will present their finding shortly.

We note that the Committee comprises 21 cross-party MPs under the chair of Hilary Benn (Labour) – and that 9 members of the Committee disagree with the conclusions to the extent that they have issued a minority report.  We will report on this report when it comes into the public domain.

John ShuttleworthComment