Best of times … Worst of times … Brexit negotiations: Part 1
Syed Nasir Ershad
British Prime Minister Theresa May set up a government department, headed by veteran Conservative MP and ‘Leave’ campaigner David Davis, to take responsibility for Brexit. Former defense secretary, Liam Fox, who also campaigned to leave the EU, was given the new job of international trade secretary and Boris Johnson, who was a leader of the official Leave campaign, is foreign secretary. These three are each set to play roles in negotiations with the EU and seek out new international agreements, although it would be Mrs. May, as prime minister, who would have the final say.
Brexit Secretary David Davis will call for ‘a deal like no other in history’ as he heads into talks with the EU. Subjects for the negotiations, which officially start in Brussels later, include the status of expats, the UK’s ‘divorce bill’ and the Northern Ireland border. Mr. Davis said there was a long road ahead but predicted a deep and special partnership.
The UK is set to leave the EU by the end of March 2019.
Day one of the negotiations started at about 11:00 BST at European Commission buildings in Brussels. Mr. Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, a former French foreign minister and EU commissioner, gave a joint press conference at the end of the day. The UK minister, accompanied by a team of British officials, said that today marks the start of negotiations that would shape the future of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and the lives of our citizens. We want both sides to emerge strong and prosperous, capable of projecting our shared European values, leading in the world, and demonstrating our resolve to protect the security of our citizens. We want to reiterate at the outset of these talks that the UK would remain a committed partner and ally of our friends across the continent. And while there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear – a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU. He described this deal like no other in history.
The European Union sources said that the talks will follow the EU’s preferred pattern of exit negotiations first, with the future relations between the two sides – including the free trade deal the UK is seeking – at a later date. Five major UK business bodies have come together to call for continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal is made with the EU. In a letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark, they urged the government to put the economy first. The letter is from the British Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, EEF, Federation of Small Businesses and Institute of Directors.
On the eve of talks, Chancellor Philip Hammond issued a strong warning about the implications of the UK leaving the EU without a deal in place. Mr. Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that having no deal would be ‘a very, very bad outcome for Britain’ but added that one that aimed to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time would be even worse. He called for a transition deal to be in place to avoid businesses being affected by a cliff edge scenario as the UK leaves. Mr Hammond has said the UK should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity.