EU adopts transition guidelines in two minutes
The European Union has taken two minutes to adopt its negotiating guidelines on Britain’s Brexit transition period.
Brussels’ deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand said the EU is offering a “status quo transition without institutional representation” from March 2019 until the end of 2020.
The EU insists that the UK should continue to abide by all of the bloc’s rules, such as freedom of movement, which includes any new ones introduced during the implementation period.
The Government has already indicated it is willing to comply with most of the EU’s demands to move talks onto the future relationship between London and Brussels.
But there have been rumblings of disquiet from some in the Prime Minister’s party, with influential backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg saying this would leave Britain a “vassal state” of Brussels.
Some Leave figures in her own party claim the PM is preparing to deliver a Brexit “in name only”.
In an early sign of pushback against Brussels, Brexit Secretary David Davis demanded last week “a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say.”
“It’s very, very important,” he said, that “if there are new laws that affect us, we have the means to resolve any issues during that period.”
But Irish European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee dismissed such a prospect, saying on Monday that “what we cannot have is a position where the integrity of the single market, the customs union, is in any way undermined.”
“When the UK leaves the European Union they will not be a voice around the table,” she said.
Another point of contention with eurosceptics is likely to be the role of the European Court of Justice in handling any disputes.
Brexit backers have been keen to end the sovereignty of the EU’s top court as part of Britain’s EU exit and will view any sort of role for the ECJ as anathema.
Speaking earlier, the PM’s official spokesman acknowledged there would be “differences” between the UK and EU positions over the transition.
“There is obviously going to be a negotiation on what the implementation period looks like,” he said.
“The formal directives will be released this afternoon.
This will be a negotiation and there will naturally be some distance in the detail of our starting positions.
“I think there is broad agreement on the principle of an implementation period being in the interests of both sides, but on the specific detail you would expect there to be some differences.
That is obviously what will be negotiated.” Mrs May is keen to move talks onto the future relationship, particularly when it comes to trade, but further guidelines will need to be adopted at a summit in March for this to happen.
Monday’s guidelines from the EU includes a demand for more clarity on what future ties should look like.
“The sooner the Brits are clear about the future, the better for everybody,” Italy’s EU affairs representative Sandro Gozi said.
“We have to use our time and energy not in shaping the transition, but in shaping the future relationship.”
European sources have said transition talks between Mr Davis and EU negotiator Michel Barnier could begin as early as this week.