Your Guide to Brexit

Brexit Europe Speaks

UK vs EU – the Key Brexit Negotiation Topics

On 29 March 2017 Theresa May initiated the two-year time frame for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. A sudden exit by the UK at the end of the two-year period is unlikely to be in anyone’s interests and therefore some form of transitional arrangement is likely to be agreed.

In this document we have set out the main negotiation positions of both sides at the commencement of the negotiations and we will update this with any agreements reached between the parties. We will refrain from commenting on media speculation, of which there is likely to be a lot.

  • The UK position is taken from Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk on 29 March 2017
  • The EU Council’s position as taken from the negotiation guidelines agreed by EU Leaders on 29 April 2017

Hard Brexit / access to the single market

UK Position

Recognises that the four freedoms are indivisible

EU Council Position

Welcomes the UK’s acceptance that it cannot “cherry-pick”

Comment

The unwillingness of the UK to accept the free movement of people is the biggest stumbling block to retaining access to the single-market. Any softening of the position on this would be a welcome development from Ireland’s perspective.

Ireland

UK Position

Avoid a return to a hard border and maintain the Common Travel Area

EU Council Position

Ireland’s priorities are the EU’s priorities. Flexible and imaginative solution will be required to avoid a hard border. The EU should recognise existing bilateral agreement between Ireland and the UK that are compatible with EU law.

Comment

The prominence given to Ireland’s position is encouraging as is the objective of agreeing on this issue at an early stage in the negotiations, which should minimise business uncertainty. From the perspective of the island of Ireland the recognition by both parties of importance of avoiding a hard border is welcome.

Trade Deal

UK Position

Wants a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU that covers sectors such as financial services and network industries. This to be agreed during negotiations

EU Council Position

No negotiations on a future trade deal can commence until the terms of the UK’s exit are agreed.

Any agreement must ensure a level playing field and include safeguards against unfair competitive advantages.

Comment

Should the UK leave the EU without a trade deal then WTO terms would apply to apply to trade between the UK and the EU.

This would mean that tariffs would apply to goods exported from Ireland to the UK. Some sources have estimated that the average tariffs imposed on Irish exports to the UK could be in excess of 10%. This would be damaging to Irish exporters.

While the EU would be willing to commence negotiation of a trade agreement once they are satisfied with the progress of negotiations on the exit terms any delay in commencing this phase of the negotiations would create uncertainty and would be damaging to business.

Transitional period

UK Position

In its White Paper the UK Government said that it would seek a phased process of implementation to allow businesses to have time to prepare for the complete exit of the UK from the EU.

EU Council Position

A transitional arrangement could be agreed which would be time limited and during which the UK would remain subject to EU rules.

Comment

Any period which allows business to prepare for the reality of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be welcome.

It might also allow time for the implementation of a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU which would be in Ireland’s interests.

Financial contribution

UK Position

Wants to negotiate a fair settlement to take account of future partnership between the UK and the EU

EU Council Position

Wants to negotiate a single financial settlement that recognises the UK’s existing and contingent financial obligations.

Comment

This is quoted from some sources as being a €50bn payment from the UK.

We can anticipate much media comment on the amount of any settlement during the progress of the negotiations.

Existing EU legislation

UK Position

The Great Repeal Bill will enshrine current EU legislation in UK legislation as much as possible

EU Council Position

No specific comments on this matter by the EU.

Comment

A key part of the UK’s negotiation strategy in negotiating a speedy trade deal is that UK domestic legislation will be in line with existing EU legislations at the time that it leaves the EU. This also provides certainty for foreign businesses operating in the UK.

Citizen rights

UK Position

Wants early agreement on the rights of UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in UK.

EU Council Position

Agreeing reciprocal guarantees to settle the status and situations of EU and UK citizens, affected by the UK’s exit from the EU will be a matter of priority for the negotiations

Comment

This may be the simplest matter on which both sides can reach agreement. An early agreement on this point would be welcomed by those affected.

A delay on agreeing this point might indicate that the negotiations are proving difficult.

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