Unite Brexit Check’s weekly news briefing on the UK’s exit from the EU.
Check back every Friday for an overview of the week’s Brexit-related political, industrial and economic developments.
The UK has two weeks to clarify how it will settle its EU divorce bill if progress is to be made in Brexit talks, the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said at the end of the sixth round of negotiations in Brussels. Behind the scenes there have been moves to increase the €20 billion that the UK has indicated it is prepared to pay.
Brexit secretary David Davis said the negotiations had narrowed to a “few outstanding, albeit important, issues”.
He added there had been “frank discussions” with Mr Barnier and his negotiators on the issue of the Irish border, and insisted there could be “no new border” inside the UK (see below) (BBC).
Ireland has toughened its stance over the Northern Ireland border question, which is said to have blindsided British officials at the Brexit negotiations.
A leaked European Commission document says the Brexit divorce deal must respect “the integrity of the internal market and the customs union” and explicitly mentions an “all-island” approach, which effectively means that they want Northern Ireland to remain within the customs union and single market, something the government’s informal coalition partners the DUP would not agree to (Telegraph).
The European Parliament has rejected Britain’s new offer on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit, describing it as inadequate.
The government released a technical paper on 7 November spelling out the details of a two-year grace period for EU nationals to apply for settled status once the UK leaves the bloc so that they can continue their lives in the UK.
But the EU parliament’s cross-party Brexit steering group said there were still “major issues” to be resolved and Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt criticised the “inadequate” proposal (Independent).
Brexit will hit the north of England the hardest, according to the IPPR think tank. The research found that about 10.2 per cent of the north’s GDP is dependent on trade with the EU, compared with 7.2 per cent for inner London and suggests many northern regions are 50-60 per cent more dependent on EU markets for their prosperity than London.
Cumbria is hardest affected, suffering a 13.2 per cent hit to GDP, followed by northern Lincolnshire at 12.8 per cent (Guardian).
Business is said to be urging the government to settle the divorce bill and move talks along or it will “shake the tree”, which is interpreted as code for triggering relocation plans (Telegraph).
The UK steel sector has raised concerns that it will go to the wall if the government’s proposed trade bill becomes reality. It will leave the UK without the protections against dumping provided by the EU, the sector fears (Times).
Britain will officially leave the EU at 11 pm on Friday, 29 March 2019 Theresa May announced in a newspaper article (Telegraph).
But Britain is free to change its mind about leaving the European Union right up until the end of March 2019, according to the peer who helped design the Article 50 process (Politics Home).
EU leaders are reported to be “war-gaming” every possible outcome as they watch May’s government lurch from crisis to crisis. The EU27 are apparently preparing for different scenarios including the departure of May within the next few weeks, another general election, no-deal Brexit and even a reversal of the referendum decision (Times).
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of leaving devolved administrations “substantially in the dark” on key Brexit talks. She called on the UK government to make good on its promise to give the devolved administrations a “genuine role” in discussions (BBC).
Brexit poses a European defence dilemma because of its nuclear arsenal and seat on the UN security council. The future defence relationship will be on EU officials’ agenda next week as part of their internal preparatory work anticipating the second phase of Brexit negotiations, which will outline the future relationship between London and Brussels (Politico).