Saturday, 29 April 2017

Analysis of the EU's Draft Guidelines, as Agreed by 27 Member States

The EU has agreed upon the guidelines which will be used in the Brexit negotiation process. The document opens with a joke, stating that, "the European Council has received the notification by the United Kingdom of its intention to withdraw from the European Union and Euratom. This allows for the opening of negotiations as foreseen by the Treaty." Of course, we all know that shortly after the Brexit vote the drafter of Article 50 admitted that it was never intended to be used.
The document emphasises that it doesn't want to severe relations with the UK, but that any working relationship will be subject to a degree of compromise. Agreements won't be done on a case by case basis; instead an entire deal must be completed before anything can come into being. An example of this would be a refusal to allow an deal on the movement of goods to commence whilst the movement of workers awaited debate.
The stars have nothing to do with
the number of Member States, but
their order represents unity
Individual Member States won't be allowed to make deals with the UK, which is old news. It makes sense in the context of pure economic relationships between Member States and the UK, but one wonders how the special relationship with Ireland will be handled by the EU and whether it fully appreciates the gravity of the situation. Separate negotiations are banned, so it's reasonable to assume that Enda Kenny can't bob over to London for tea and a chat. Instead he'll have to go to Brussels, who have a significantly lesser understanding of the makings of a good brew. 
The UK's relationship with the EU can only be defined once it has left, i.e. not until the UK are firmly outside the club in March 2019. The EU has stated that interim agreements which are time limited and well-defined may be used to ease the process. This is good news. It means that if negotiations drag on (either because a party is dragging its feet or due to the sheer volume of issues to be discussed) the system won't be thrown into disarray because the timer goes off.
Turning to the substance of the agreement, the EU has underlined the importance of the free movement of citizens and workers to the ethos of the Union. It has stressed the need to come to amicable arrangements which will disrupt as little as possible the lives of UK and EU citizens whose living status is jeopardized by the decision to leave. The UK's position on this is not clear. On one hand, the free movement of people seemed to be a motivator for the leave vote, on the other hand the business community have spoken out about the invaluable source of labour EU workers provide.
On the budgetary side of things, the document expresses a desire to see both sides honour their financial agreements. For example, a UK farmer who was promised an EU subsidy which was due to run for 5 years would still receive their payment.
At least the UK stuck to its sterling-guns 
and there will be no need for a currency change
Ireland gets a special shout out, but not until page 6 (of 9). "Flexible and imaginative solutions" and "the aim of avoiding a hard border" are pledged. It's noteworthy that it's only an aim, rather than a firm commitment.
There's also a corking line about the UK's intention to leave the single market and wanting to agree an "ambitious free trade agreement", which is the equivalent of the EU telling the UK to get on their bike.
A host of common sense stuff is included too, basically spelling out that the UK won't have all the rights and obligations that EU membership confers when they leave, but until then they do. Was it really necessary to put pen to paper on these matters? It's evocative of a student padding out an essay.
To summarise, the ethos of the EU's guidelines is that it will be coming at the negotiations as a single, united party. It will look for a fair deal and seems uninterested in punishing the UK for leaving, however, it's clear that whatever is agreed will not be as advantageous as full-membership of the EU nor will it be the equivalent benefits and responsibilities under a new name. It's a very fair stance and should hopefully lead to an amicable agreement.