- Alo Duffy, ICOS board member and Chairman of Lakeland Dairies, has been elected Chair of the newly created Brexit Task Force within Copa Cogeca, the European Association of Farmers and Agricultural Co-operatives. This Task Force, will assess policy options arising from the Brexit discussions relating to the agri-food sector and will discuss potential solutions to the technical challenges which Brexit poses for co-operative businesses and farmers.
- The fourth round of negotiations between the EU and UK took place this week and ended in a more positive tone than previous meetings. At the closing press conference on Thursday afternoon, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier stated that it was a “constructive week…but we are not yet there in terms of achieving sufficient progress”. Meanwhile, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said that the UK had shown leadership and flexibility and the talks were taking “decisive steps forward”.
- This follows a landmark speech given by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, last Friday, 22 October, where she called for a two-year “implementation period”, during which the UK would maintain EU rules, trading relations, freedom of movement and payments to the EU Budget. She also promised that the UK would pay for its commitments in the 2014-2020 budget, however she did not provide a concrete figure nor indicate exactly what the UK government considers these commitments to be. Speaking on Thursday, Barnier stated that speech “made it possible to unblock” some of the discussions which have so far been moving slowly.
- The next round of negotiations will take place from the 9-12 October. Shortly after EU leaders will meet on the 19/20 October to decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made to proceed to discussions on the future EU-UK trading relationship.
- Meanwhile next Tuesday (3 Oct) MEPs will vote on a resolution, which advises leaders that “sufficient progress has not yet been made” and discussions on trade should be postponed, “unless there is a major breakthrough” in the next negotiation round in October.
Barnier stressed that both sides were still at ends regarding the “Brexit Bill”. At the press conference he referred directly to the promise made by May last Friday, that no EU27 country would pay more into or receive less from the current EU budget as a result of Brexit, and that the U.K. would honour the commitments it made as an EU member. He called on David Davis to turn these commitments into concrete negotiation proposals.
Border Issues & Northern Ireland
This week, negotiators began to draft common principles needed to maintain the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. In addition, the UK team presented an audit it had complied detailing the 150 institutions and programmes which provided for North-South co-operation and discussions began on how to secure these past the UK’s departure from the EU.
Some progress was achieved on the issue of safeguarding citizen’s right, with the UK committing to incorporate the final withdrawal agreement fully into national law, in order to provide
“certainty, clarity and stability for EU citizens in the UK”, said Davis. Barnier however indicated that this may not be sufficient- with the UK opposing the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, citizens would not have the right to appeal to the court if their rights were violated, and following Brexit, there would be nothing to stop the UK from changing their national laws.
The UK’s proposal for a transition, or “implementation” period until 2021 was greeted quite positively by Barnier. There are some suggestions that in discussions at the Summit meeting on the 19/20 October, EU leaders could decide to extend Barnier’s mandate to including transitional arrangements. Speaking at the All-Island Civic Dialogue in Dublin yesterday, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney called for a longer transition period of 4 years to be put on the table, to ensure that there is sufficient time to fully implement the new EU-UK trading relationship. Certainly, this would be a welcome move, eliminating the threat of a fast approaching deadline which is causing much uncertainty for businesses. It would also take some of the pressure off the negotiations which have yet to make any major breakthrough. Equally ICOS supports calls for this transition period to fully maintain the current customs arrangements and EU rules, as well as jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice- it would make sense for businesses to adjust twice to new rules and procedures.
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