Brexit deal marks only the start of complex talks

Range of new bodies to oversee implementation of the agreement

Ursula von der Leyen: she welcomed the Brexit deal on Christmas Eve quoting TS Eliot. “The end is where we start from.” Photographer: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Bloomberg

Ursula von der Leyen: she welcomed the Brexit deal on Christmas Eve quoting TS Eliot. “The end is where we start from.” Photographer: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Bloomberg

 

Ursula von der Leyen’s statement welcoming the Brexit deal on Christmas Eve gratified her British audience with references to the Beatles and Shakespeare. But it was the words from TS Eliot she quoted at the end that struck the deepest chord: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

Brexiteers recalled that Little Gidding was one of the poems Margaret Thatcher chose for her funeral in 2013. But in the context of the deal agreed last week, it’s a pity Von der Leyen did not continue with the next line: “the end is where we start from”.

After nine months of difficult talks between Britain and the European Union, the agreement marks the beginning of endless further negotiations within complex, permanent structures with their own secretariat, subcommittees, working groups and regular meetings in Brussels and London.

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here

The agreement, which covers security, energy, transport and other issues as well as trade, establishes a Partnership Council, co-chaired by a senior EU commissioner and a British minister. 

“The Partnership Council shall oversee the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement and any supplementing agreement. It shall supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of this Agreement and of any supplementing agreement. Each Party may refer to the Partnership Council any issue relating to the implementation, application and interpretation of this Agreement or of any supplementing agreement,” the agreement says.

Below the council sits a Trade Partnership Committee, 18 specialised committees and four working groups dealing with different aspects of the agreement. The Partnership Committee, which will meet at least once a year but can meet any time either side requests it, will have its own secretariat staffed by officials from each side. It will sit alongside the joint committee established to oversee the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol.

The agreement enables the European Parliament and Westminster to set up a parliamentary partnership assembly of MEPs and MPs “as a forum to exchange views on the partnership”. And it envisages a civil society forum involving unions, business groups and NGOs from both sides.

The EU has all the structures required to staff and oversee all these bodies but the new structures pose a bigger challenge for Britain, which has been dismantling its internal EU co-ordination mechanisms and will now have to rebuild them.

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