Now the temperature is rising. The UK government seems increasingly to be questioning the EU policy of separating the negotiations into two stages. The first stage concerns the border between northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the financial obligations and commitments of the UK, and also the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the rights of UK citizens in the EU. The second stage concerns the overall relationship between the EU and the UK after Brexit, and in particular the rights of the UK to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. The EU has been adamant that the second stage cannot be discussed until at the very least there has been substantial progress on the first stage. What is meant by “substantial” has not been clearly defined. However, many argue that the two stages cannot be so clearly separated as they are interdependent in the sense that the financial liability and capacity  of the UK must to a large extent be crucially affected by the trade arrangements that the UK is able to negotiate with non-EU countries. Here the UK is in a relatively weak position as quantitatively the UK, a single country, is negotiating with the other 27 member countries of the EU. The lower the financial settlement that the UK pays the greater the budget contributions of the 27 member states will be, unless the overall budget is decreased. The EU, of course, must represent the interests of its member states. Similarly the UK represents the interests of UK taxpayers. This could be one of the insoluble problems that the partners face.

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