As schools prepare to re-open across Europe, both EU and UK politicians have a lot of homework to do to pass the Brexit exams scheduled for next year….
The European Commission Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Dominic Raab, had further discussions which ended yesterday.
There were three workstreams. They were described by Barnier as:
"a backstop solution for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland"
"the other outstanding issues of the Withdrawal Agreement, for instance the protection of existing Geographical Indications, amongst others"
"the political declaration on our future relationship."
What was interesting was how Barnier characterised the discussions:
"We must de-dramatise the issue"
"The negotiations are now entering the final stage"
"We must find pragmatic solutions"
"We are more, far more advanced in defining that common ground for foreign policy and security than for the economic relationship"
"This partnership has to respect the single market and the foundations of the European project."
It is useful to translate this:
There will probably be no deal by October – that deadline has gone the way of others
The EU is not going to easily compromise (or, more likely, not compromise at all) on the EU's Internal Market – there are four freedoms (goods, persons, service/establishment as well as capital/money) and the EU is not going to allow the UK to pick one (goods) – it would be like asking parents to choose one of their four children
The EU is calling for the situation to be de-dramatized
Foreign policy and security are nearly there but the difficulty is over the economic/market issues
It may be the beginning of the end, but we're still some way off the end…..indeed, even if these negotiations concluded, there will be perpetual negotiations between the EU and the UK for as long as both exist because, just like Norway and Switzerland, new issues arise and will have to be addressed…so everyone should get used to perpetual negotiations if the UK leaves the EU….