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Progress of the UK’s negotiations on EU withdrawal report released

The Exiting the European Union Committee publishes its report on the Brexit negotiations.

In the run-up to the European Council meeting in December, the Committee on Exiting the European Union publishes a report on the current state of the negotiations. At next month’s meeting, the EU27 will consider whether sufficient progress has been made to allow talks to progress to phase two negotiations on the future relationship.

Main findings

  • The Committee does not see how it will be possible to reconcile there being no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with the Government’s policy of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union
  • The Government is urged to publish a white paper on the proposed implementation period as soon as possible after December's European Council and to set out specific proposals on the UK's future 'deep and special' relationship with the EU 
  • A deal on citizens' rights should be 'ring-fenced'

'Untested and speculative'

The Report calls on the Government to set out in detail how it plans to meet its objective of avoiding the imposition of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, including if no withdrawal agreement is reached by 29 March 2019.

Committee Chair Hilary Benn MP said:

“Our Report concludes that we cannot at present see how leaving the customs union and the single market can be reconciled with there being no border or infrastructure.

Even by their own admission, the Government’s proposals are untested and speculative, so it has yet to set out how no border can in practice be maintained with the UK outside the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

White paper

The Committee is also calling on the Government to publish a white paper on the implementation period as soon as possible after the European Council in December. The Committee heard how an implementation period is only valuable if it is agreed sooner rather than later. Left too late and the certainty available to business and stakeholders diminishes.

The white paper should provide detail on the UK’s participation in the single market, the customs union, how free movement will operate, the jurisdiction of the CJEU, UK membership of EU agencies and security, defence and foreign policy co-operation.

Future EU-UK relationship

The Government also needs to turn its general statements about a 'comprehensive and ambitious' or 'deep and special' future EU-UK relationship into much more specific proposals.

Hilary Benn said:

"We hope that the December Council will conclude that sufficient progress has been made so that the talks can move on to our future relationship. Businesses need certainty and reassurance to stop firms triggering contingency plans which could see activities and jobs move abroad. Ministers assured us that detailed arrangements for the implementation period could be published by March 2018. This deadline must be achieved.
The Government should also set out its vision for the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU. If phase two of the talks do start next month, then ministers need to move beyond words like 'bespoke' and 'special' and actually explain what it is they are seeking."

Citizens' rights

Brexit will have a very real impact on millions of citizens living in the UK and across the EU. Any agreement reached on their rights should be ring-fenced and preserved in the event of failing to reach an overall agreement. If the EU negotiating team reject such a request, the UK Government should make a declaration that it will unilaterally provide a guarantee on EU citizens' rights in the UK (also agreed by our predecessor Committee). We would expect the EU to issue a similar guarantee to UK citizens living in EU countries.

Parliamentary vote

The Committee's report calls for the Government to give Parliament a vote as soon as possible after any deal is agreed as it would not be acceptable to present a motion to the House after the UK has left the EU.

On 27 November, the Committee received an edited version of the sectoral analyses from the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Committee is now considering them and will respond separately.

Hilary Benn MP, commented:

"As it stands, any deal will need to be voted on by the UK Parliament and the European Parliament before the end of March 2019 unless the date of exit has been postponed by unanimous agreement of the 27 Member States under the terms of Article 50.If the European Parliament has not approved the agreement and the negotiating period has not been extended, then the UK would leave the EU without a deal. This would not be acceptable. Parliament must have the right to express its view in good time.

This week the Department for Exiting the EU delivered edited sectoral analyses to the Committee in response to the Humble Address agreed by the House of Commons on 1 November. The Secretary of State will appear in front of the Committee next Wednesday to be questioned on this."

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