For anyone with even a passing interest in UK politics, this was the news we’ve all been waiting for.
On Friday morning it was announced that EU chiefs have given the go ahead for Brexit negotiations with the UK to move on to the next phase.
The news, in typically ‘post-modern’ (read: farcical) fashion, was announced via the Twitter page of the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) December 15, 2017
So what will the second phase of Brexit talks involve?
These will centre around the longer term view of relations between the UK and the single market. Key discussion points will include terms of transition, any trade agreement – sure to be a sticking point with both parties pulling in opposite directions, and international security.
Sure enough, Jean-Claude Juncker – the European Commission president and Statler to Tusk’s Waldorf – has already commented that this second phase of the process will be ‘significantly harder.’
After what seemed like an eternity – an in reality was still a lengthy six months or so, the Brexit negotiations had reached a standstill will neither party able to agree on key features of any subsequent agreement.
These were known as the ‘divorce issues’, and include naturally essential matters including citizens’ rights – both those of UK natives living in single market countries as well as those of EU nationals on these shores, as well as the size of the settlement package; with quotes ranging from £20bn to £50bn. This is not having a new boiler fitted, this is the UK leaving a major continental institution, and it really does beggar belief that the two parties could be so far apart in their estimates!
Happily, the European Commission confirmed last week that sufficient progress had been made for talks to progress, with the official confirmation from Tusk this morning at least giving hope that the protracted negotiations may, one day, be over.
This has proven to be a much-needed fillip in an otherwise difficult week for Theresa May, whose grip of the PM’s mantle appears to be growing weaker and weaker with each passing month. If she thought she had the backing of her Conservative party chums on the Brexit divorce bill, she has proven to be sorely mistaken….
Tory Rebels Ramp Up Pressure on May
If you’ve ever wanted to watch a 17-second video clip of Boris Johnson drinking a can of peach juice, your wildest dream has been fulfilled on the Guardian’s website.
BoJo is currently on a tour of Japan, and his quenching of thirst came as a gift to the Japanese Foreign Secretary, Tara Kono. He wanted to prove that there was nothing wrong with produce from Fukushima; the location of a catastrophic nuclear accident back in 2011. Johnson’s exaltations of ‘yum’ were reassuring enough, but should he start to grow fangs and glow in the dark then, well, he will fit even more seamlessly into the group of characters that make up the front benches in the Houses of Parliament.
It is perhaps serendipitous that the Prime Minister elect was out of the country as all hell was breaking loose in the Conservative party. Eleven key Tories this week voted against May’s EU Withdrawal bill; her first significant loss as leader in the Commons. While the Tory PR team went into overdrive to play down the result, this was perhaps further indictment of a sense of unease that is growing amongst a party that largely voted ‘Leave’.
The eleven rebels include key Tory figures, including Ken Clarke and Stephen Hammond, with the latter having to defend himself after being published in an almost ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ style front page from the ever-gracious Daily Mail. “There are people who are saying this is all about scuppering Brexit. Obviously I voted Remain, but this is not about that,” he told The Independent.
“I understand that we are going to leave – everyone does. This is about making sure the process under which we do it is the right one.”
It kicked off, basically, because Parliament wants more say on the minutiae of the Brexit agreement, rather the committee running riot with their own views. This would have presented a ‘take it or leave it’ style vote on whether we should adopt the Withdrawal Bill or not, whereas the eleven rebels want a more holistic approach that grants them power to re-write parts of the proposal; the so-called Act of Parliament.
So, it’s been another tough week for the Prime Minister at a time when she should be celebrating a Brexit breakthrough. She presents her ‘end view’ of the UK in a post-EU world to the cabinet on Tuesday, and boy does she ever need to be greeted with overwhelming positivity on that front.