On 19 June 2017, Brexit negotiations began. Almost one year after the UK voted to leave.
The negotiations are the start of a lengthy period of decision making between the EU commission and the UK government. The two committees are focused on getting the best outcomes for their communities whilst maintaining a civil business like relationship.
The UK’s position
The UK’s position has begun the negotiations at a lower than expected bargaining power due to the Conservatives losing their majority in the 8 June General Election. The Conservative and DUP coalition has not been determined yet and as such a government has not yet been formed.
Whilst the Brexit committee is still in place and has begun negotiations, the uncertainty at home will have an impact on the abilities of the committee to make decisions on behalf of the UK.
The UK has also been rocked by a number of terrorist attacks and the Grenfell fire since the election which has been a priority for the government with COBRA meetings being called for each matter.
The UK’s Brexit negotiation team is headed up by David Davis who has the position of Secretary of State for Brexit. The rest of the team consists of senior civil servants specialising in the different negotiation areas including immigration and national security.
The EU’s position
The EU has stated that the notification from the UK created “significant uncertainties” and that it will have the greatest impact on the “citizens who have built their lives” in the EU. The EU’s aim is to “maintain its unity” and negotiate a result that is “fair and equitable for all Member States” whilst providing “as much clarity and legal certainty as possible” to the citizens of Member States.
The EU’s committee is spearheaded by Michael Barnier who has become popular for the slogan of “keep calm and negotiate”. This could be a good sign for UK as the EU are coming to the table ready to discuss their departure openly and calmly. The rest of the EU’s team consists of people specialising in areas such as negotiations as well as more specific areas such as the Brexit Bill itself and movement of goods.
The Queen’s Speech
On 21 June 2017, the Queen gave a speech in the Palace of Westminster. The Queen’s Speech began with a reference to the Brexit negotiations with the Queen stating that her “government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union”. The speech also set out that eight bills relating to Brexit are to be discussed in the Houses. This include the Great Repeal Bill, which was demoted in Her Majesty’s speech to simply the Repeal Bill, as well as bills relating to trade, customs, immigration and sanctions.
The Queen highlighted the need for the UK to “maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies” whilst still forging new trade across the globe.
Where are we at now?
Both sides are currently aiming for the stars setting out their own ideal positions and the negotiations will start from there. Both sides will therefore lay their positions out on the table for the other side to see. This could result in some of the easier decisions being resolved quite simply at this stage before the more intense negotiations begin.
The UK have understood from the beginning that there would have to be trade-offs in relation to the deal that the UK and EU would come to. As it would not be as simple as the UK getting rid of the bits it did not like and keeping the rest. Alongside this, the EU has its own aims that the two sides have to contend with.
With the UK’s government fraught with indecision and Europe on a knife edge with increasing terrorism, it may be easy for tempers to rise and arguments to occur however the committees need to understand that an agreement of any sort has to be made that will be beneficial to both parties.
The negotiations will be a long waiting game with the parties keeping things close to their chest where necessary whilst appearing to be reasonable and persuading one another to see their side of the argument.
What about the public?
A major issue for the UK Government and the EU commission is that for the greater public in the UK and across the EU, all of these negotiations will be going on behind closed doors. The public will not have access to information about the progression of the negotiations unless the EU and the UK government wish to divulge the information.
This may be frustrating for the citizens of the EU and the UK however in order to get the best deal, it may just be that the public have to be kept out of the loop in order to protect the bargaining position. The UK government have stated that they will be as open as possible about the negotiations however we will have to wait and see just how open that will be.