Brexit Bites, 29 January 2018

Jan 29, 2018

Today, EU foreign ministers meet to discuss how to formally transition the UK out of the EU.  In other developments, Irish government departments must provide details of how many staff will be needed to manage a ‘no deal’ Brexit by the end of the week while the Chair of the UK Parliament’s Brexit Committee says the public are still in the dark about how a hard border can be avoided on the island of Ireland. 

EU meets to examine UK transition

EU foreign ministers will meet today to approve transition negotiating guidelines which are expected to say that the UK will formally cease its membership of the EU from March 2019. While the UK will have no involvement in the decision making of the EU from that date, it’s expected that it will retain the rights and obligations of being a member state until the end of 2020, which is the end of the EU’s current budgetary period.

Parallel to these talks will be the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.  It’s reported that there is some frustration in Europe on the lack of concrete detail from the UK on the three divorce issues that formed part of the Phase 1 negotiations. The EU are reported to be planning to issue a “friendly reminder” to the UK that progress still needs to be made on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement and the UK’s sole focus should not be on the future trade relationship and transition period.   

Irish government make preparations in event of no deal Brexit

It’s been reported that Irish government departments have been told to start making contingency plans in the event that the UK walks away from the EU without a deal.  Each department has been told to assess how many staff will be needed to deal with such a scenario and to report these figures by the end of the week.

If the UK walks away without a deal and reneges on its promise to avoid a hard border, the island of Ireland may very well have customs borders and checkpoints (which will require staffing) and trade between the UK and Ireland would fall under World Trade Organisation rules.   This will lead to higher tariffs on goods traded between the two countries as well as delays at ports and borders which will inevitably results in job losses in several industries and in particular agriculture and food. 

The public are in the dark

The Chair of the UK Parliament’s Brexit committee, Hilary Benn has stated that despite the first phase of Brexit talks reaching completion, the public remains without a clear understanding of how a hard border in Ireland can be avoided.

Mr Benn said that he has difficulty understanding how the UK can leave the Customs Union and Single Market while maintaining full regulatory alignment and an open border between Ireland and the UK in the event that the Brexit negotiations fail to reach a deal.

Mr Benn’s comments come as Brexit Secretary David Davis said the UK will remain close to the EU’s regulatory regime after it leaves the EU and wants the possibility to go its own way in the future if it chooses to do so.

Giving evidence to the Commons Exiting the EU Committee last week, Mr Davis said "The aim of this whole exercise will be to maintain maximum possible access to the European market whilst at the same time exercising overall freedom over what we are going to do in the future."

Brexit Shorts

  • Former Taoiseach John Bruton calls for an extension to Brexit negotiations
  • Brexit deal must work for Northern Ireland communities, says Sir Keir Starmer, Brexit Shadow Secretary
  • NHS Heads warn that patients could face delays in getting medication after Brexit 

Read all of our Brexit updates on the dedicated Brexit section of our website.