The latest round of Brexit talks ended in stalemate yet again, as the divide between the EU and Britain over the three key issues – rights for citizens post-Brexit, the UK’s finiacial settlement, and the Irish border – continues to prove unbridgeable.
The EU’s lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said that sufficient progress on these issues has not been made, and consequently the EU is unwilling to move on to talk about trade and the future relationship between the two sides post Brexit. Britain, for it’s part, is loath to agree a fixed sum of money over it’s obligations without a public signal from the EU that they will sign a free trade agreement or at the very least agree to a transitional arrangement. The EU argue that a future relationship cannot be discussed until it has seen proof that the UK will honour itís financial obligations, guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit, and produce a fair solution to the land border with Ireland.
The UK objects to the EU proposals to involve the European Court of Justice in disputes brought within the UK by EU citizens post-Brexit, violating one of the Prime Minister’s so-called red lines. Further, the UK argues that discussion of a future relationship is mutually beneficial, and have accused the EU of seeking revenge on Britain for its vote to leave in June 2016. A deal must be reached by the end of next year in order for it to be ratified by national parliaments prior to the expiration of Article 50 in April 2019.
The EU parliament, headed by Brexit critic-in-chief Guy Verhofstadt, voted this week in a non-binding poll against moving on to the next round of negotiations. Whilst the European Parliament is not directly involved in the negotiations, its members are influential and the body is able to veto an exit deal agreed on by the EU commision.
The Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to relaunch the Brexit talks with a speech in Florence last week, trying to break the deadlock between the two sides. However, following on from a difficult conference that has further sapped her authority, and with domestic rivals circling, her capability to lead these negotiations is more in question than ever.
If this Brexit impasse continues, the possiblty of no deal being agreed grows stronger.