Initial Brexit Talks Result in Agreement, What Next?
By admin December 8, 2017

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On Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and members of the European Union were able to finally hash out an initial round of Brexit agreements necessary to move talks on to a more serious phase. Though this agreement is the first of the many needed to enable Britain’s transition out of the EU, the pact resolved a number of initial issues that were taking a long time to negotiate. These issues included the “hard border” in Ireland, the necessary mechanism by which to calculate the “divorce bill” as well as the establishment of judicial protocols to protect EU citizens residing in the Britain and British citizens in the EU.

Given severe time constraints, May was able to close the deal upon the granting of a unilateral promise to continue open borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if Britain is unable to negotiate a trade deal with the rest of the European Bloc. Irish Prime minister Leo Varadkar expressed delight with the deal, as it would protect the 50-billion Euro a year trade it does with Britain. Mentioning that relations with the UK had soured since May’s announcement to officially succeed, Varadkar pressed that such relations could easily be repaired. Given the agreed upon deal, there will be no cameras, custom checks or patrols on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

May’s effort to bend the EU to it’s will have been largely unsuccessful and have only added further fuel to criticism of May’s government, which was severely weakened following a disastrous election. Despite the difficulty of first round talks, the second round of talks scheduled to begin on December 14th will likely be much harder as in this phase details of a trade deal will be more specifically enumerated as well those regarding the divorce settlement. England will first have to resolve an internal debate in order to move forward with a trade settlement, as Britain must decide whether it wants to maintain a strong trading relationship for the sake of preexisting business ties or whether it wants to distance itself from the EU in order to garner freedom to negotiate new trade deals without being hampered by EU unilaterally imposed standards or regulations. Furthermore, if Britain chooses to pursue a strong deal with the EU, the EU will likely be quite stringent in the imposition of standards and regulations as it wants to make an example of Britain for any other EU member that is considering leaving the bloc.

Britain could maintain a relationship to the EU akin to that of Norway, in which it would retain its position in everything but name and voting power. In this case Britain would retain free trade and freedom of movement and labor for voting EU citizens while continuing to contribute to the administrative budget of the EU. Such deal would likely be unacceptable as Britain sought to leave on the basis of wanting to restrict freedom of movement. In the case that Britain seeks to renegotiate an entirely new trade agreement as a third country, it is likely that such an agreement could take years to parse out and would leave out free trade regulations on services such as banking and investment that are a major part of Britain’s economy. It is unclear where the second round of talks will lead.

Further Reading:

Ireland’s leaders say deal shows Britain is edging towards soft Brexit

Brexit Talks Headed for a Second, More Difficult Phase

Brexit: Britain and EU reach deal on divorce terms

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