Brexit talks in 'deadlock' as divorce negotiations flounder
Not even the "EU Super Girl" was enough to keep Brexit talks in Brussels from stalling over lack of progress on the UK's divorce bill. She ended up getting tossed out of a press conference.
Following four days of talks between EU and British negotiators, the two sides are in a "state of deadlock" after the UK failed to provide specifics on the so-called Brexit bill, Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday at a joint press conference with his British counterpart.
EU officials have estimated the UK's financial commitments to the bloc's programs at up to €100 billion euros ($118.5 billion), while British media have reported that London will likely cap the amount at €40 billion ($47.50 billion), a figure Brussels is unlikely to accept.
'No negotiations' on divorce bill
Although British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK would ensure that the EU does not lose out financially from Brexit during a September speech in Florence, Barnier said London has yet to specify elements of its divorce settlement.
"This week, however, the UK repeated that it was still not ready to spell out these commitments – therefore there have been no negotiations on this subject," Barnier said. "On this basis, I'm not able, in the current circumstances, to propose next week to the European Council that we should start discussions on a future relationship."
Brussels has made clear on several occasions that it would not move forward with post-Brexit talks until there is "sufficient progress" on three key issues, including EU citizens' rights, the questions of the Irish border and a financial settlement.
But British Brexit Minister David Davis said Thursday that while more work needs to be done, he was confident an agreement on EU citizens' rights could be made in the near future. Davis has pushed for EU leaders to give Barnier the "means to explore ways" on their future relationship.
"We see no reason why that should not take place. We're looking for some urgency from our friends and partners, and it's time to put a bit of a tiger in the tank and get this thing done."
EU leaders agreed to negotiating guidelines during a summit in April 2017 that divided the divorce talks into two phases. Phase I, in which both sides aimed to settle the basic terms of Britain's departure, started in July and ended with an agreement on "sufficient progress" in December. Officials are now holding Phase II negotiations on the post-Brexit relationship between Britain and the EU.
The "Brexit Bill"
London agreed to a formula for calculating what it owes in its "divorce bill" to the EU in early December after months of haggling by British officials. The current EU budget expires in 2022 and EU officials have said the divorce bill will cover financial obligations Britain had committed to before triggering article 50. The final bill will reportedly total around £50 billion (€67 billion).
Both sides agreed in early December that the 3 million EU citizens currently in Britain and the 1.1 million British citizens in the EU keep their residency rights after Brexit. British courts will have immediate jurisdiction over EU citizens living in Britain. But the EU's highest court, the ECJ, can hear cases until 2027 if British judges refer unclear cases to them.
The Irish border
Britain and the EU also agreed in December that no border checks between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would return post-Brexit. How feasible the commitment will be is unclear, as Britain's commitment to leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union makes it difficult to avoid customs checks at the Irish border.
Theresa May envisages a two-year transition period after March 2019. Both sides still have to hash out the details of the transition period in Phase II, including the exact end-date, whether new EU laws passed during the period will apply to Britain, and whether Britain can negotiate its own free trade deals. British officials hope to agree on the terms of the transition by March 2018.
May has repeatedly said Britain will leave the European Single Market and the EU Customs Union. Leaving both could disrupt British-EU trade, but allow Britain to negotiate its own free trade deals and restrict EU migration — key demands by pro-Brexit politicians. London has said it wants to negotiate a new EU-UK trade deal during Phase II to minimize trade disruption before March 2019.
Britain has also vowed to restrict EU migration into Britain after Brexit. However, some British lawmakers are wary that a sharp drop in immigration could lead to shortfalls in key sectors, including health, social care and construction. The EU has warned that Single Market access is out of the question if London decides to restrict the ability of its citizens to live and work in Britain.
Recent terror attacks across Europe including a string in Britain underline both sides' support for continued security cooperation after March 2019. But access to EU institutions such as Europol and programs such as the European Arrest Warrant require compliance with EU laws. Whether Britain will still be compliant after it leaves is unclear.
'EU Super Girl'
During the press conference on Brexit negotiations, security removed British singer and anti-Brexit activist Madeleina Kay, who sat front row in an "EU Super Girl" costume. "I had every right to be there," Kay wrote in a tweet. "I had a pass and badges. They were just scared of a fancy dress costume."
"I think Britain needs saving from Brexit because it's going to be an unmitigated disaster," Kay told DW. "I'm here to represent that there is a 'Remain' campaign, and that we don't accept what Davis is doing and the government's policy on Brexit."
The UK is the first country to launch proceedings to leave the EU after a majority of British citizens voted in favor of a formal divorce from the bloc.