Downing Street confident Brexit talks will advance to second phase by October

Iain Gilbert Sharecast | 21 Aug, 2017 14:55 - Updated: 14:55 | | |

Prime Minister Theresa May is confident Brexit negotiations have made sufficient progress and will move to a second phase in the autumn, contrary to reports last week that talks will be delayed until the end of the year.

"We are confident that we will have made sufficient progress by October to be able to advance talks to the next phase," a 10 Downing Street spokeswoman said on Monday.

Last week UK ministers were reported to be pencilling in December for the next stage of negotiations as not enough progress was being made in the initial talks.

And on Monday, one EU leader was suggesting May’s hopes of opening discussions on a future trade relationship this autumn will "definitely be dashed" due to the slow progress of Brexit negotiations, with too much distance between the two sides in the opening rounds of talks.

The Number 10 spokeswoman noted, however, that the government was mulling over a "number of precedents" to protect itself from future disputes after Britain's departure from the European Union in March 2019.


Although the UK and EU remain at odds over how soon the talks can pivot toward a trade agreement, Britain published position papers setting out plans for the "most frictionless" possible trade, post Brexit.

The government was looking at how the bloc could continue the management of customs at its borders after separation as a way to continue the UK's unhampered access to trading within EU markets.

Of the two models presented by the government last Tuesday, one would involve the implementation of "highly streamlined customs arrangement" and the reinstatement of the customs borders between the UK and the EU, but this time would rely more on electronic tracking of shipments rather than physically checking goods and documents at border points.

The second model was for what the proposal referred to as a "new customs partnership" between the two which would remove the necessity of a border entirely.

Under this model, Britain would operate the same as it did while it was a member of the EU for customs purposes. Goods would be exported free of any tariffs and in exchange; the UK would levy tariffs on goods entering Britain from the EU that were destined for other EU destinations.

Legal officials have advised that this form of agreement would require some form of regulatory bureau designed to ensure that the UK was sufficiently monitoring the quality of goods bound for Europe and to be certain that the correct tariffs were paid.

The EU's OLAF anti-fraud agency is set up to perform a similar function, collecting dues to Brussels via a commission from the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), but Theresa May has gone out her way in the past to point out the UK would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the ECJ after Brexit has been finalised.

Miro Cerar, the prime minister of Slovenia, told the Guardian that it was proving too difficult to close the differences between the UK and EU in the opening rounds of talks, with the UK producing some unrealistic proposals.

Andrew Sheets, a strategist at Morgan Stanley, said of the current state of Brexit negotiations, that "a choice needs to be made between ‘soft’ versions that still encourage trade and 'hard' versions that curtail immigration sharply".

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