EU sets out Brexit position on citizen rights and giant UK exit bill 


Maintain EU citizen rights and pay what you owe, EU tells Tories

THE EU HAS BEGUN publishing more detailed negotiation plans ahead of the first part of talks on the Tory-led exit from the European Union. 

In two ‘position papers’, compiled by European Commission negotiators, the EU position is laid out on how it plans to guarantee citizens’ rights and ensure the UK meets its financial settlement to the EU27 countries on the date of its expected departure. 

The Article 50 negotiations, expected to start shortly after the UK snap General Election on 8 June, will first focus on reciprocal agreement on citizens’ rights, agreeing a mechanism for calculating then paying a financial settlement, and finding a solution to challenges Brexit poses to the peace agreement in Northern Ireland. 

Tory leaders have been criticised for failing to set out details for the talks a year after the EU referendum result, for failing to guarantee the right to remain for EU nationals living in the UK, and for a confrontational approach to EU leaders. 

The most contentious issue in early talks is expected to be any exit bill – which Brussels reports have speculated to amount to between €60 and €100bn. The EU position paper lists the 74 funds, agencies, and joint ventures that the UK is expected to meet continued financial obligations to at its point of departure. 

The paper explains: “This single financial settlement should be based on the principle that the United Kingdom must honour its share of the financing of all the obligations undertaken while it was a member of the union. The United Kingdom obligations should be fixed as a percentage of the EU obligations calculated at the date of withdrawal in accordance with a methodology to be agreed in the first phase of the negotiations.”

In what may prove to be another contentious point in talks, the EU wants “a schedule of payments that should aim at mitigating the impact of the United Kingdom withdrawal on the budget for the union and on its member states”, a position that could prevent any Tory desire to delay payment or elongate a repayment schedule. 

Read more – Tory Brexit hopes rejected by Germany and European Parliament leaders

EU leaders already caught the Tories off guard by rejecting calls for ‘parallel’ talks on a trade deal – which is now highly unlikely to be finalised by March 2019, when the UK is expected to exit. 

EU leaders also included a clause in the agreed negotiating plan that for any deal to apply to Gibraltar, it must be agreed with the Spanish state. A statement was also agreed allowing Northern Ireland to rejoin the EU if a future decision was taken in favour of a united Ireland. 

Read more – Spain set to gain veto over Gibraltar’s status in EU Brexit talks

The position paper of citizens rights stated: “The Withdrawal Agreement should protect the rights of EU27 citizens, UK nationals and their family members who, at the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, have enjoyed rights relating to free movement under Union law, as well as rights which are in the process of being obtained and the rights the enjoyment of which will intervene at a later date [for example pension rights].”

It added that the same rights should also apply to “current and future family members” and that “the Court of Justice of the European Union should have full jurisdiction corresponding to the duration of the protection of citizen’s rights in the Withdrawal agreement”.

Tory leader Theresa May repeated her claim that “no deal is better than a bad deal” in Brexit talks. However, Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that a breakdown in talks “would undoubtedly leave the UK worse off” with trade, travel, flights and even the “delivery of nuclear material” suspended. Those would be “just some” on the consequences, he warned. 

Article 50 was triggered on 29 March 2017 – giving just two years for a withdrawal agreement to be signed and then ratified. Barnier has said that the deal must be agreed by October 2018 to then allow ratification to take place in time. Due to the snap general election being called, that allows a maximum of 16 months negotiations to take place. 

Picture courtesy of Valsts

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