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Brexit negotiation will be a trilogy – Divorce, Transition and Future Relationship

Brexit negotiation will be a trilogy – Divorce, Transition and Future Relationship

“It could take up to 10 years to conclude” – Hayes

Fine Gael MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, said today that people need to realise that the Brexit negotiations will be a marathon and not a sprint.


“It’s now clear from the team around Michel Barnier that Brexit could take anything from 6 to 10 years to conclude. It will be the most complicated and protracted negotiation ever within the EU. In Ireland we need to be prepared and ready for a situation that will involve a number of different governments, various Taoisigh and an enormous amount of political and diplomatic effort. This is not one negotiation, but more like three sets of negotiations: divorce proceedings, transition arrangement and future relationship.

“Once Article 50 is triggered in March there is just two years to conclude the divorce proceedings between the EU and the UK. The decision to conclude the final exit deal will be done by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), which means that no one Member State can hold it up. The decision must also be ratified by a simple majority of the European Parliament which can be no later than February 2019.

“Given that both Parliament and Council have to issue guidelines for the negotiation after the triggering of article 50, the entire negotiation on the terms of Britain’s exit can only really happen between the summer of this year 2017 and January 2019 – effectively 18 months.

“The divorce settlement will focus on who owes who money. Given the fact that around 10% of the EU budget comes from the UK, the terms of the exit could be very costly from the UK’s perspective as existing EU budget commitments stand. Despite what some politicians have said so far, this phase will also be about defining the structure of UK’s future relationship with the EU – to what extent will the UK have single market access? Will they be part of the Customs Union? Will they be bound be ECJ decisions? Equally the issue rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK citizens in the EU will have to be resolved.

“After the first phase and assuming there is a deal by March 2019, comes the next phase – a transition arrangement. We must do our best to ensure that during this phase that minimal change from a regulatory or tariff position takes place. But this phase could last between two and four years.

“Finally we have the end phase or the negotiation on the future EU-UK relationship – most likely a new Free Trade Agreement putting the final Brexit deal into practice. This will really go into the nuts and bolts of how goods and services will be traded between the UK and the EU going forward. By any measure of previous trade agreements, this could be a long-drawn out process. There will be potential problems around cherry-picking and what level of compliance there will be with EU regulations. What is clear is that a Free Trade Agreement with the UK can only be formalised once the UK has left, or once divorce proceedings have concluded. And crucially it will be a mixed trade agreement which must be adopted by all 27 Member States and will not be done on the basis of QMV. If one of the 27 said No, then the final agreement could not come into force.

“All phases of this negotiation will be subject to legal challenge and ultimate determination in the courts. What’s clear is that the only possible referendum that could take place in Ireland, if the Oireachtas decided, is at the end of the process rather than the start of it. We are definitely in for long wait to see the final terms of Brexit. The entire political system needs to be aware of this challenge for the next decade.”

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