The fog separating the UK from the EU seems to be thickening, at least when viewed from the UK.
But that might be because the fog that has covered the UK since last year’s referendum vote has thickened significantly since Theresa May’s election “victory”.
From outside the UK’s self-generated fogbank things are a lot clearer.
The EU has produced, and agreed with the UK, a timetable for the initial negotiations and published position papers on:
- Essential principles on citizenship rights (published 29th May, sent to the UK 12th June);
- Essential principles on the financial settlement (published 29th May, sent to the UK 12th June);
- Nuclear materials and safeguard equipment (published 23rd June).
The EU has published various other documents which can be found here on its Article 50 negotiations web page.
The UK has now published the first of its policy papers, proposals for dealing with the so called “settled status” for EU27 citizens resident in the UK.
The UK’s proposals fall far short of those published by the EU on 29th May and the UK’s policy document only mentions in passing the need to protect the rights of UK citizens whether living in EU27 countries or living in the UK. Like the “Great Repeal Bill” white paper published in March the UK’s proposals are at best vague
However, both the UK and the EU proposals only deal with UK citizens resident in the EU27 countries and EU27 citizens resident in the UK. Both these scenarios fall far short of addressing the full range of issues affecting UK citizens and EU27 citizens.
All in all, the only fog and confusion apparent from the EU27 countries starts at the White Cliffs of Dover, and is generated by wondering what is going on in the UK.
Looking further ahead, we can see other events which will help shape the direction of the Art. 50 negotiations or provide indicators to the progress and possible outcome.
September, October and November of this year will be particularly rich in these events. Apart from the 3rd (September) and 4th (October) rounds of the initial negotiations there are also:
- German federal elections – September
- Party conferences in the UK – September & October
- The UK’s budget – November
By then we should also know far more about the European Communities Act 1972 repeal bill and the 7 others which will be needed to give effect to the UK leaving the EU. That should also give some clarity to what sort of future the government is intending once the UK leaves the EU and also just how many powers the government intends to reserve to itself rather than leave to parliament.
We don’t yet know what the negotiating timetable will be in 2018, apart from the notional date for completion at the end of September 2018, leaving 6 months to get the necessary parliamentary (UK, EU and EU27) approvals.
We know that there will be a general election in Italy somewhere between March and May 2018, which will provide a further pointer to the direction politics in Europe is going.
By the end of March 2018 the UK’s Parliament will have to make a decision on whether to notify the European Economic Area of its intention to leave.
There are also a number of legal milestones between now and 00:00 30th March 2019. Some of these coincide with those mentioned above; others are more about particular sets of circumstances.
The People’s Challenge, or rather its legal team, has produced a guide to the Legal Milestones on the road to Brexit.
Some of these are points at which legal challenges to the process of leaving the EU or EEA could be mounted, all are points at which we need to check what has been done and how it has been done.
The current government has already shown a propensity to grab for its own use powers that, in a parliamentary democracy, are more properly exercised by parliament.
The two main political parties share a (deliberately?) confusing, and confused, position on what leaving the EU actually means.
We, the people of the UK, and our parliamentary representatives, need clarity.
All the issues and options need to be subject to full, reasoned, public and parliamentary debate, followed by a free vote in parliament.
As a way of determining the future of the UK, this is infinitely preferable to a decision based on the limited options presented by one (or even both) of the UK’s two main political parties.