Formal Brexit talks began Monday 19 June as officials gathered in Brussels at the European Commission headquarters—almost a year on from the referendum vote in 2016.
The European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier and Britain’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis both came to an agreement on a two-page schedule outlining the intended sequence of talks. The paper states that initial discussions in the coming months will focus on citizen’s rights, a financial settlement and ‘other separation issues’. The paper also highlights the importance of initiating dialogue on the position of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland—who share a land border with the EU—as soon as possible. In a statement following the first day of negotiations, David Davis said ‘We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions, with an ambitious but eminently achievable timetable.’
Officials will meet on a four-weekly basis to further negotiations. The schedule paper is clear that transparency during these meetings is paramount to building trust and for the success of the Brexit negotiations. It states that any negotiation documents must be shared with vital parties at least one week prior to meeting wherever possible. Senior officials will divide into groups to begin legal and technical progressions on the divorce.
Britain appears to be in agreement with the EU after Brexit talks began Monday 19 June that trade negotiations will not begin until more pressing, immediate matters like immigration and financial settlements have been resolved. In a speech at the European Council summit in Brussels Thursday 22 June, prime minister May pledged to offer certainty and security to the estimated three million European citizens living in the UK. The proposal said that a new legislation called a ‘UK Settled Status’ would grant EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years the right to stay in Britain after Brexit with access to health, education and other benefits. Downing Street have yet to confirm a cut-off date for the arrival of new residents, but have stated that it will be no later than the official leave date in March 2019. Residents who arrive before the UK leaves the bloc will have a grace period—expected to be two years—in which to build a ‘UK Settled Status’. ‘The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer and one aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society,’ said May.
‘For both the European Union and the United Kingdom, a fair deal is possible and far better than no deal,’ said Michel Barnier after the first Brexit talks began Monday 19 June. ‘This what I said to David today. That’s why we will work all the time with the UK and never against the UK. There will be no hostility on my side. I will display a constructive attitude firmly based on interests and support of the 27.’ David Davis said that the initial talks were ‘very productive,’ and he was ‘encouraged by the constructive approach that both sides have taken.’
The next official negotiations meeting is due to take place 17 July 2017.
Further reading: OECD 2017 BUSINESS AND FINANCE OUTLOOK INCLUDES ADVICE ON BREXIT