House of Commons Library

Brexit: the July negotiations

Published Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What happened at the second round of Brexit negotiations from 17 to 20 July 2017 and what have we learnt? This first phase of the negotiations aims to reach agreement on citizens' rights, the financial settlement and the border between Ireland the Northern Ireland, as well as other separation issues, such as Euratom, EU external agreements and dispute resolution. But there was little evidence of agreement on any of these, and the UK Government has been asked for more clarification at the next round. A lot is at stake, because if sufficient progress isn't made by October, the negotiations will not move on to future relations, an EU-UK trade agreement or transitional arrangements.

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Progress in the second round?

The UK and EU have now held the second round of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The four days of talks in Brussels in July – largely between officials – were about understanding each other’s positions.

Citizens' rights

Both sides reported some progress, and a ‘technical note’ shows the points of agreement and disagreement between them on the issue of citizens’ rights. The two sides agreed that citizens’ rights is a priority for both of them and there were some areas of convergence.  There is broad agreement on which EU citizens and family members of EU citizens should be protected, but areas of disagreement include how to guarantee these rights, the rights of future family members, and the exporting of certain social benefits.

No new publications: clarification needed

But little else was published after this round, and there have been no more announcements on what documents either the European Parliament or the UK Parliament will get on the negotiations. The UK negotiator and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, will not be able to update Parliament on any progress until September.

The EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like “clarification” at the third round of talks in August on the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Ireland. There appears to be little change in the areas that most divide the two sides, such as the financial settlement and the role of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

Financial settlement?

The UK Government has acknowledged that the UK has financial obligations to the EU that will survive its withdrawal, and vice versa, and that they need to be resolved.  But David Davis has not publicly said which obligations the Government recognises.

Role for EU Court?

The UK may be moving towards accepting some kind of continued role for the CJEU during a transition period, and the EU may be moving towards accepting something like the EFTA court, even for disputes over citizens’ rights. But this discussion still has a long way to go.

The Irish border?

The only public points made on progress in the talks about Irish border issues were that both parties were committed to preserving the Common Travel Area and the Good Friday Agreement, and that more work was needed. Neither side has published a position paper on these issues.

Transitional arrangements?

There were some developments in the UK Government’s potential approach to transition arrangements. Much publicised cabinet divisions - how long they might last and whether they would include free movement - appeared to be diminishing.  But at the end of July the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that free movement would end in March 2019.

The Government explores future trading options

Although the UK can't enter into trade agreements with third parties until it leave the EU, the Government has been talking to a number of other governments about the possibility of bilateral agreements later on. They include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India and Turkey.

What next?

Three more negotiating rounds are scheduled before the European Council has its first opportunity on 19-20 October to consider whether ‘sufficient progress’ has been made to move on to the next phase of the negotiations, which could include a discussion of the UK’s future relations with the EU and transitional arrangements.

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