By: Emily Janicik
As the European Union and the United Kingdom close the first round of negotiations this week, Britain is one step closer to fully exiting the EU. After Prime Minister Theresa May of the UK and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a joint announcement that the two parties have made “sufficient progress,” it appears as if the UK and the EU are on the same page. Nevertheless, questions regarding the compromises made and who they benefit in the long run.
One major point of conflict is the negotiations regarding North Ireland and its borders. The border between the Free Irish State and North Ireland has long been a source of tension, and the British government must be careful in this situation. According to Prime Minister May’s announcement, “Northern Ireland will remain in ‘full alignment’ with EU customs and trade regulations.” This comes as a relief to the Irish government. They did not want a “hard border” as it has caused violent clashes in the past. Additionally, the rights of all citizens affected have been discussed at length. Both British citizens living abroad in the EU (1.2 million) and EU citizens living in the UK (3.5 million) will have their rights guaranteed, a large stride in negotiations. While the UK still wants more independence from the EU, they will allow the European Court of Justice to maintain sovereignty in cases for eight years. Most importantly, the EU and UK have agreed on how much money is owed as Britain is leaving, about 39 billion pounds.
The British government is also still facing obstacles in public opinion. When asked whether “Britain will get a good or bad deal,” voters who answered “bad” increased by 20% from February 2017 to October 2017. Public opinion of how the British government is handling negotiations is decreasing as well. These talks have been dissatisfying for hard-line Brexiters, who believe many of the agreements favor the EU. But with few legal events like this occurring in the past, most believe it’s a miracle that negotiations are even progressing.
Looking forward, the worst is yet to come, with topics like trade and security to be discussed. Trade talks cannot even begin until the UK is officially a “third party” with the EU, pushing the expected date back until 2019. Britain is currently in a “holding period” until March 29th, 2019, so it has time to transition. But, there are strings attached. It is questionable whether the UK will maintain a close trade relationship with the EU, their largest market, or explore a new path. The clock is ticking while the British government is scrambling to finish the “divorce deal” so trade talks can begin.