Brexit Britain from Abroad: EU Turns the Tables on Shambolic, Weak UK

Going Soft on Hard Brexit

The first European Union summit since British Prime Minister Theresa May lost the mandate of an outright parliamentary majority reflected a weakening in her Brexit negotiating position, highlighted by the migration question. Immigration was a potent issue in last year’s Brexit referendum campaign. The future of about three million EU citizens residing in Britain is now an emotive debate. They have reason to fear a hard Brexit. May’s tough rhetoric on immigration has done nothing to ease their anxiety that they might be forced to leave, or become second-class citizens.

There has been a shift in sentiment, however, to a soft Brexit in which Europe’s views on the future relationship carry more weight. It is to be seen in the response to what May called a fair offer on the rights of EU citizens in Britain. Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Donald Tusk all dismissed it as failing that test, and a matter still needing to be dealt with in the detailed negotiations now under way.

May said no Europeans living lawfully in Britain would have to leave, families would not be split and EU citizens would be given a grace period to normalise their status. This is more constructive than her earlier insensitive handling of the uncertainty. But EU citizens’ groups in Britain still called it pathetic. Nonetheless, the proposals are a promising restart on resolving one of the thorniest Brexit issues. As with many others, the outcome depends on the detail

Editorial, South China Morning Post

Hard Brexit is Over

As Brexit negotiations get underway, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how the UK can pursue its former “have your cake and eat it” strategy, particularly when it comes to a trade deal.

Some of the most ardent Brexiteers want a totally clean break from the EU. Under this model, the UK would leave both the customs union and the single market. But after the general election, this “hard Brexit” now seems highly unlikely.

One alternative option is to secure continued participation in the European Economic Area (EEA). This is the arrangement that was originally established in 1994 to extend the single market to Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden. Today the EEA encompasses the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Sweden, Austria, and Finland became members of the EU instead.

The Conversation, The South African

How Red Are May’s Red Lines?

The business of quitting the European Union got seriously complicated when Theresa May declared that Brexit meant ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The ECJ plays a crucial role underpinning the U.K.’s trade arrangements with the EU and its membership in EU regulatory agencies as well as policing EU-wide rules on everything from counterterrorism to data transfer.

Whether the U.K. prime minister fully appreciated the implications of unraveling all of this when she announced her red line at the Conservative party conference last October is an open question. Some of those closely involved in Brexit planning say the decision was made for political reasons, without the usual consultations that precede major statements of government policy. But now that negotiations are under way, the key question is: How red is this red line?

The first big test concerns what role, if any, the ECJ should play in enforcing the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. post-Brexit. The EU argues that since these rights stem from EU law and since only the ECJ can interpret that law, the ECJ should retain the final say. The U.K., on the other hand, says the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens will be enshrined in both U.K. law and the Article 50 withdrawal agreement, which will have the status of international law, so there is no question of the ECJ having any jurisdiction.

This doesn’t tell the full story. The U.K. has already conceded in its white paper on the “Great Repeal Bill” that British courts will continue to respect ECJ rulings on matters of EU law as it exists on the day the U.K. leaves the EU. Many lawyers also expect the U.K. to agree that its courts should pay attention to future judgments of the ECJ as they pertain to questions of EU law up to the point of the U.K.’s departure. It seems Mrs. May’s real red line is that British courts should no longer be allowed to ask the ECJ to rule on questions of EU law.

Simon Nixon, The Wall Street Journal

Turning the Tables

May made what she described as a “big and generous” offer that any EU citizen with five years’ residence will be granted settled status, giving them rights “almost equivalent to British citizens.” But she insisted this must be reciprocal, and refused to outline the specific cut-off point for eligibility.

None of this satisfies Labour or the EU. Lead negotiator Michael Barnier tweeted that the EU wanted the “same level of protection as in EU law. More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.”

Most crucially, it does not give any certainty to those involved. Many of them still see May using them as bargaining chips in the talks, not as people. As the deal is reciprocal and dependent on other arrangements, the millions affected are still little clearer as to their eventual fate and have to wait another year. Even then, imagine 3.2 million European citizens applying for settlement. The system could get swamped.

At the core of this is an issue that could be the biggest hurdle to a Brexit deal. The EU insists that the European Court of Justice should have authority over any deal involving EU citizens, but this is an absolute no-no to the May government, which insists British courts should be sovereign. The compromise could be an arbitration panel with figures from both sides.

Britain has been called the laughing stock of Europe over Brexit, its reputation for effective and sensible diplomacy seriously challenged.

Chris Doyle, Arab News

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