Brexit: Breakthrough before breakfast

 08 Dec 2017 - 11:22

Brexit: Breakthrough before breakfast
British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk leave after posing for photographers at the European Council in Brussels on December 8, 2017. ()AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND)

By Emma Ross/Thomas, Nikos Chrysoloras and Ian Wishart / Bloomberg

The UK and the European Union are ready to move on to Brexit trade negotiations after reaching an agreement on the Irish border and other issues.

“Both sides had to listen to each other, adjust their position and show a willingness to compromise,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in Brussels Friday morning. “This was a difficult negotiation for the European Union as well as for the United Kingdom.”

Prime Minister Theresa May traveled early Friday with an offer to unlock the next phase of divorce talks: a financial settlement, an arrangement for Europeans living in the U.K. and a solution for keeping open the border that divides the island of Ireland after the split.

The last turned out to be the thorniest. The Northern Irish party that holds the balance of power in London wielded a powerful veto until the last minute. Breaking the gridlock took months of work, delicate four-way talks and a series of missed deadlines. “We will guarantee there will be no hard border,” May said Friday morning.

The U.K. accepted most of the EU’s demands and now has the prize it has been seeking since March—the right to start discussing relations between the two when Britain parts ways with the bloc after 40 years.

But it doesn’t all end in March 2019, when the U.K. is slated to exit. A trade deal may take years to formulate. That’s why the two-year transition that May seeks is key—businesses want to know how long they have to plan for the future, whether that means relocation or continued investments.

“Millions of jobs depend on the future trading relationship we will determine,” May said in Brussels. “Reaching this agreement now ensures that businesses will be able to make investment decisions based on an implementation period that offers welcome certainty.”

May’s Conservative administration is fiercely divided over Brexit. Her Cabinet hasn’t decided what kind of trading arrangements it wants from Europe.

The second phase will be even more delicate and important than the first. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it will be far more complex. Britons will be watching to see if talks live up to what was promised: They were told that Brexit would mean free trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world, controls on European immigration and the repatriation of regulation.

May has got the deal that she needed—and the agreement that businesses were clamoring for. Amid off-and-on threats to oust her, failure to move talks along could have cost May her job and brought more instability. It remains to be seen how pro-Brexit Conservatives respond to her concessions.

Related News

arrow Read More
Britain foils suicide plot to kill PM May in Downing Street - Sky News

 06 Dec 2017 - 10:02

Britain has foiled an suicide plot to kill Prime Minister Theresa May with a bomb in Downing Street, Sky news reported, citing unidentified sources.

arrow Read More
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei sees Brexit as a “backward” step for Britain

 05 Dec 2017 - 16:33

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is a backward step that will make the country more exclusive, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said at the UK launch of his recently released film on the global migration crisis.

arrow Read More
Britain's May in Brussels for Brexit moment of truth

 04 Dec 2017 - 9:37

British Prime Minister Theresa May will try to reach a deal on Brexit divorce terms with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday as months of tense negotiations reach a decisive moment.