Brexit talks resume as both sides struggle to find common ground
The UK and EU resume their negotiations today - what happens next?
British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis listens to European Union Chief Negotiator in charge of Brexit negotiations with Britain Michel Barnier as he addresses media representatives during a press conference at The European Union Commission Headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images
Brexit negotiations are set to resume on Monday with both sides striving to find common ground so that the European Union can declare “sufficient progress” has been made to start the trade talks the UK wants.
The clock is ticking down to the UK’s March 2019 departure, with the EU warning more must be done to resolve disagreements over citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the controversial financial settlement it wants paid.
Only when these differences narrow will it green-light discussions over trade. Speculation mounted over the summer that this may not happen until December, rather than October as initially planned.
Here’s a guide of the key dates ahead:
August 28th: Back from the beach
Brexit talks resume at 5pm. Theresa May’s government hopes that by publishing several position papers it will have done enough to rebut the EU’s pre-summer criticism of sluggish talks and not enough transparency on the British side. While the UK has fleshed out its stance on Ireland and citizens’ rights, it has still to detail its approach to the bill. UK officials believe they will have more leverage if they refrain from revealing their position on the bill until far later in the negotiation process. That may not impress the EU negotiators.
Sepember 18th: Round Four
The fourth round of plenary negotiations is scheduled to begin. In addition to citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the status of the Irish border, working groups also need to resolve dozens of other issues, from judicial cooperation, to nuclear safety and the status of goods put on the market.
September 24th: What of Merkel?
The assessment that separation talks have progressed enough for trade negotiations to begin will be a political decision made by EU leaders. This means that meaningful Brexit negotiations might not start until after the German elections, when a new government coalition may be formed. Irrespective of whether Angela Merkel wins a fourth term or Social Democrat Martin Schulz becomes chancellor, it could take until as late as November before a coalition is formed. That shortens the UK’s window for negotiations substantially.
September 29th: In Tallinn
EU heads of state or government gather in Estonia’s capital to discuss digital policy. Topic of the agenda notwithstanding, this will be the first meeting of the bloc’s leaders after the German elections, and will take place days before the Conservative Party conference. Such get-togethers in the past have proved to be turning points for major issues troubling the EU. Just ask the Greeks what happened in Riga...
October 1st-4th: Tory Party Conference
Theresa May takes center stage in Manchester at the annual conference of her Conservative Party, the first since she formally set Brexit negotiations in motion and then lost a parliamentary majority in a botched election. Those opposed to leaving the EU kept a low profile at last year’s meeting; if the negotiations aren’t going well, prominent dissidents may be more vocal this time around. Others might use the stage as a beauty parade as they jostle to succeed Ms May as premier. Ms May has enjoyed some form of recovery with those most passionate about Brexit seeming to remain on board with her strategy and accepting some of the concessions she’s made.
October 9th: Final Round
That’s the last scheduled round of plenary talks in Brussels between UK and EU negotiators. The initial plan was to reach a breakthrough on separation terms by this time, so that negotiations on a future trade deal can start. This plan now looks increasingly ambitious, but hope dies last...
October 19th: EU Summit
EU leaders meet in Brussels. That’s probably the earliest date for a discussion on a post-Brexit trade deal to begin, if the bloc’s governments decide that “sufficient progress” has been made in the meantime on the thorny issues of the first stage of the talks: the exit bill, the status of expatriates, and the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. There’s no need for a final agreement on those issues by then, just a political assessment that sufficient progress has been made.
December 14th: Moment of truth
Given slow progress in separation talks so far, December’s Summit is increasingly a more realistic target for the launch of negotiations on the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is said to have told ambassadors in July. Failure to meet this timeframe would force companies to accelerate plans for a cliff-edge exit, the UK’s largest business lobby previously said, making the impact of uncertainty more visible on the British economy and, potentially, the pound’s exchange rate.
Spring 2018: Transitional Arrangements
Assuming enough progress has been made in agreeing on the exit terms, and the UK’s landing zone after Brexit, the two sides can start discussing transitional arrangements. No one in Brussels expects that all the details of the future trade relationship will have been carved out by March 2019. The ambition though is to get as far as possible in defining the framework for the future. Only then can the EU agree to build bridging arrangements toward this new relationship. “Once you know where you are going you can also consider the modalities of getting there,” EU spokesman Alexander Winterstein told reporters in Brussels in July.
Autumn 2018: Wrapping things up
Discussions on the exit deal must conclude to allow sufficient time for the European Parliament and the European Council to approve it before time runs out in March 2019. The UK Parliament also will debate the deal - and vote on it - although May has said a defeat there wouldn’t send her back to the negotiating table. The deal needs to include transitional arrangements. A potential mixed agreement between the two sides would eventually require national ratification procedures in each of the 27 member states, while the separation terms only require a qualified majority of 27 government leaders and a simple majority of the European Parliament to approve.
March 29, 2019: Brexit Means Brexit
At the strike of midnight in Brussels, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU and just what the two economies negotiated will be put to the test.