Top 3 developments
- Brexit Committee issues 15 tests for Government
- India hints at conditions for future trade deal
- UK-EU negotiators meet to discuss workable solution to border
Put it to the test says Brexit Committee
The UK should seek to join the EEA or EFTA in the case of 15 tests not being met according to a report published by the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee this week. The report was met with acrimony by several of the committee’s Brexit supporting members, including Jacob Rees-Mogg who lambasted it as an attempt to “overturn the referendum result by stealth”. The tests include remaining part of the Open Skies Agreement, retaining tariff free access in trade arrangements and providing no additional costs to businesses trading in goods and services. Whilst a high bar, the Committee Chair, Hilary Benn, sought to turn the table on comments made by Brexit supporting MPs who set out that “any new deal would be at least as good as what we have now”. With a vote on the final deal by parliament likely to take place between October 2018 and March 2019, the report is sure to add extra weight to considerations made by MPs on all sides prior to making their final decision.
Bordering on a breakthrough
UK and EU negotiators will meet for the first of many meetings over a six-week period today to try and find a workable solution to the border problems presented by Brexit on the island of Ireland. Initial talks will centre on customs, food and agriculture as well as the use of the UK as a “land bridge” between the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and the rest of the EU – something deemed of key concern to maintaining the integrity of the Single Market. Other topics will form the part of future talks including the treatment of EU citizens passing from the ROI into the UK, which in turn is likely to influence a wider migration agreement in the final deal and the Immigration Bill set to go before parliament later this year.
Migration high priority in UK-India Trade Deal
India’s High Commissioner, Yashvardhan Sinha, has set out the need for a future bilateral trade deal between India and the UK to include an expedited process for Indian professionals to travel and work in the UK. Clarifying that this would not mean ‘unfettered, unrestricted travel’, Sinha stressed the mutual benefit for both sides in securing a more open migration arrangement. India is likely to represent a key target for the Department for International Trade post-Brexit, as a burgeoning economy it provides one of the largest opportunities for growth in trade for the UK, with an FTA likely to take some time to get right. India has said it is no rush to complete a trade deal with the UK, stressing the need for certainty before the UK and India can strike the “best deal possible”.
UK-Spain talks as steady as a Rock
Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has said that he is ‘optimistic’ that a Gibraltar accord can be agreed between the UK and Spain in time for the final Brexit agreement in October, further stating that Spain did not intend to hold Brexit negotiations “hostage” over the Rock in any case. Talks between the UK and Spain are said to be focused on the use of Gibraltar’s airport, the rights of cross-border workers and efforts to ensure more is done to combat tax avoidance. Whilst talks are ongoing, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has set out that Gibraltar will fight any attempts by Spain to use the veto afforded to it by the EU in negotiations to hold up talks or seek to exclude Gibraltar from the final UK-EU withdrawal agreement.
Call for united Ireland referendum criticised
Fine Gael’s European Affairs spokesman, Neale Richmond, has criticised a call from Sinn Fein for a referendum on a united Ireland within the next five years, branding it “wholly irresponsible… at such a vital juncture in Brexit talks”. Northern Ireland has become one of the most complicated aspects of Brexit negotiations, with Sinn Fein continuing to support a position that closely aligns Northern Ireland to the EU, with future aspirations for Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland. The prospect of a future referendum could only be realised with a clear sign that there the majority in Northern Ireland would support it. With no power-sharing agreement currently in place, a decision to hold another election may return a Sinn Fein majority, which in turn could be perceived as public sentiment turning towards unification with its neighbour. UK-EU negotiations over the border in Northern Ireland continue to evoke a keen interest in Northern Ireland, with the final deal likely to be scrutinised by all parties for its robustness and respect for the Good Friday Agreement.
L’Oreal Barnier: Because he’s worth it
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has been identified by thinktank VoteWatch Europe as the most likely candidate to gain the Presidency of the European Commission following the end of Juncker’s tenure in 2019. Barnier signalled last year that he would not lead Brexit negotiations following the UK’s exit from the EU next year, which has led many to believe he is positioning himself for the top job, with European Council support likely to be forthcoming. All candidates will need the approval of both the European Council, made up of the 28 states (27 post-Brexit) and the European Parliament. The Commission President acts as the chief agenda-setter for the EU’s internal affairs, gaining direction from the EU Council and maintains a full cabinet, known as a ‘college’, of commissioners covering areas of EU policy competence and is deemed to be highly influential in driving the EU’s budget and future direction.
Swiss role to be negotiated
Whilst all eyes are turned to ongoing UK-EU negotiations over the future relationship, Switzerland is engaged in its own negotiations over improving access to EU markets. The EFTA, but non-EU, member has been increasingly seeing its proposals on areas such as financial market access dashed due to perceived EU fears that any such agreement would undermine Brexit negotiations, setting a precedent that contravened the Commissions negotiating principles for the process. The UK is likely to enter its own negotiations with Switzerland post-Brexit, however with Switzerland signed up to over 120 bilateral agreements with the EU, the EU is likely to cast a keen eye on how the matter of bilateral financial service agreements are likely to progress.