Negotiating a Brexit deal that is satisfactory to all parties was never going to be a walk in the park for Theresa May and her cronies; after all, tens of millions of pounds stand to be saved or lost depending on any deal made.
There have been five rounds of negotiations so far between the UK’s Brexit committee and EU leaders, and while a miniscule amount of progress has been made it is the question of that old chestnut – cold, hard cash – that is preventing the process from moving forward.
May at least made a strong offer in her Florence speech to EU negotiators, pledging some £20bn to the single market’s budget in 2019 and 2020, plus confirming that the UK would honour trade agreements and financial deals until the split was confirmed.
This fund is called the Resté á Liquider (RAL), and highlights exactly how much has already been committed to long-term projects in the EU – with the money yet to be stumped up. The confirmed RAL for the next few years stands at €239bn, which means the UK would have to cough up some £30bn; not the kind of loose change you find down the back of the sofa.
The key stumbling block at the moment comes from EU members, who want clarification that May’s agreement to honour the deals in place covers all aspects of the RAL, including loan payments to other member nations and investment in infrastructural and development projects across the European Union.
But key Brexit negotiators on the UK side of the fence believe that the EU are taking liberties with their demands. “They are using time pressure to get more money out of us,” was what David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, told the House of Commons. “Bluntly, that is what’s going on.”
So while a small amount of progress has been made, it is still obvious that clear division exist between the two parties. It is somewhat troubling that one of the most momentous economic and political situations that the UK has ever been embroiled in is now descending into childish, playground style arguments, but anybody that has tuned into Prime Minister’s Questions of late will know that that’s how politics s discussed in the 21st century.
Not that those involved seem to give a monkey’s, but the people whom Brexit most affects is the general public; both from a democratic standpoint (honouring the Leave referendum vote), and also in supporting welfare and economic improvements that are so desperately needed in certain sections of society – and which will surely be most impacted by the ramifications of Brexit.
So the key question remains: will the UK opt for a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union?
Deal or No Deal?
There have been general rumblings amongst senior MPs about how the negotiations have been playing out for a while, but for the first time this week those were vocalised in a very public way.
A letter has been penned by senior backbench Tories demanding that May walks away from negotiations if Brussels continues to neglect discussions on trade. Former chancellor Lord Lawson is also part of the ‘Leave Means Leave’ campaign, which has declared that ‘decisive action’ is required to prevent UK businesses from facing an uncertain couple of years.
The campaign’s leader, Owen Paterson, has intimated that domestic firms should start planning for a future under World Trade Organisation rules. “It is inevitable, with ineluctable certainty we are going to end up with WTO rules at the end of this anyway,” he said. “We are saying it would be much better to state that now, give business and administrative organisations certainty so they can begin to prepare.”
If no progress is made in the next round of talks regarding the free trade deal, then May has been urged to declare that UK business will be operating under the terms of the WTO as of March 2019.
Money Talks as Deadline Day Looms
Thursday December 14 is a key date in the Brexit debacle: here a summit will be held amongst EU leaders to decide if enough progress has been made by the UK negotiators in an amicable deal for both parties.
If they deem it has not, then talks will reach a deadlock situation until the UK offers a more convincing set of terms for the EU to agree to.
At the moment, we are way short of the figure outlined by Angela Merkel, who wants £90bn to sign off on any agreement – which suggests the £20bn offered to date is rather short of the mark. ‘I hope David Davis is coming up with decent proposals, €20bn is definitely not enough,’ was what senior German politician Michael Fuchs had to say on the matter.
So yes: I’ve plenty to report about Brexit, but no forward movement of any progress unfortunately! That December 14 date is looming rather ominously at the moment….