Brexit Britain from Abroad: The Brexit Clock is Ticking but the UK Looks Adrift
Britain Looks Adrift
As discussions got serious this week in Brussels — amid open feuding, cabinet splits and confusion over policy objectives back in London — Britain’s handling of its most important negotiations since World War II was starting to look shambolic. Nearly four months after Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50, starting the clock on a two-year window to negotiate Britain’s departure, little or nothing of substance has been accomplished.
With the British currency languishing, the standard of living progressively squeezed and investors starting to take fright, there is markedly less bravado in London about a new age of opportunities for a “global Britain.” Amid a growing sense of drift, gone is the talk of a “red, white and blue Brexit” — a reference to the colors of the national flag.
“I am not sure that anybody is in control at the moment,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “There are about as many views about the direction of Brexit as there are members of the cabinet.”
Stephen Castle, The New York Times
The Brexit Clock is Ticking
Throughout the general election campaign, May repeated said that she would be prepared to see the UK leave the EU without a divorce deal in place. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” was her mantra. Given the complexities of the divorce negotiations over the next 500 days, there seems to be little if any realistic chance of a Brexit deal being hammered out.
Consider too that the negotiations now underway in Brussels are focused just on three main areas: The size of the financial obligations due by Britain to the EU for leaving the bloc; the rights of the 3 million EU citizens who now reside in the UK and the rights of the 1.5 million Brits who live in the EU; and ensuring that the land border between the British-ruled province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south remains open for the free movement of goods, services and people.
Each one of these key issues are fundamentally complex — and each needs to be fully resolved before any other issue between London and Brussels can be discussed. As far as the EU27 are concerned, if there’s no satisfactory agreement on these three, the Brexit talks won’t proceed to a myriad of other issues.
Mick O’Reilly, Gulf News
EU Demands Clarity from Britain
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday that there was still a "fundamental divergence" with Britain on how to protect the rights of the three million EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.
Speaking at a press conference after the first full round of negotiations, Barnier insisted that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should be the guarantor of such rights.
Barnier, who appeared with British Brexit Secretary David Davis, said Britain still needed to provide clarification on three key issues: EU citizens' rights, the Irish border, and its position on a financial settlement of its obligations to the bloc.
"Clarification of the United Kingdom's position is essential," Barnier said. "We want an orderly exit, and an orderly exit requires Britain to settle its accounts. "This week's experience has shown, we make better progress when our respective positions are clear."
Davis said the talks had been "robust but constructive," but noted there was "a lot left to talk about."
"A solution will require flexibility from both sides," Davis added.
An Acrimonious Divorce Looms
The second round of Brexit talks have come to a close in Brussels with both sides keen to project a sense of progress and common purpose. But that pretence has been possible only because substantive exchanges on the knottiest questions have yet to begin. Scratch the veneer of diplomatic bonhomie on display yesterday between Michel Barnier and David Davis, chief negotiators for the EU and the UK, respectively, and the gaping chasm between the two sides becomes apparent.
Take one of the first items on the agenda: citizens’ rights. A British paper on the treatment of EU and UK citizens living in the other’s jurisdiction was widely welcomed as a good start. But after four days of meetings this week, it became clear that negotiators now face complex and fraught discussions over British citizens’ rights to move between EU states as well as reciprocal health, education and employment rights.
Even more contentious questions await, not least the size of the divorce bill London will have to pay. The figure has been widely estimated at some €65 billion, but both sides have wisely agreed first to settle on a formula for calculating it. Doing otherwise would at best delay the talks and at worst collapse them.
Editorial, The Irish Times
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