Theresa May is in Florence this weekend, which is a nice city to be in at any time of the year but especially in the late summer heat of September, although her trip is very much of the business rather than leisurely nature.
The Prime Minister is in Italy to make her first really public declaration of her hopes and plans for Brexit, and it is believed she is ready to negotiate an exit clause that would see the UK stump up a cool £20 billion to leave the single market.
The second part of her speech will discuss timeframes for the mucky Brexit split to be completed, and it is believed that 2019 will be the ultimate end point for the UK as an EU concern.
It is believed that further talking points will be put to bed, including the rights of EU citizens already settled in the UK and those who have repatriated to European Union member state.
It is perhaps wise on May’s part to host the speech on foreign shores. There has been more Conservative in-fighting in the past week – mainly caused by that cumbersome rabble-rouser Boris Johnson.
BoJo allegedly threatened to resign as the Foreign Secretary last week, fearing that the Prime Minister was hoping to secure a Swiss-style Brexit plan that would outlaw the free movement of people from an EU nation to the UK, but ultimately allow us to remain the single market for economic purposes.
Boris had planned to deliver a speech at a Cabinet committee meeting along such lines but was refused permission, so in an act of almost teenage petulance he instead leaked the transcript of the speech to the Daily Telegraph instead.
Intriguingly, the speech appears to have been designed to trump May’s efforts, and in its own characteristically Boris way is the kind of thing we might have to endure should he move into 10 Downing Street in 2019 – something the bookmakers and those in the know suggest is a possibility.
The Prime Minister has refuted allegations that she plans an economic tryst with the EU, stating that no payments will be made to the European Union other than the mind-bogglingly large amount needed to sever ties.
Moving On Up?
The aim of the speech is to actually accelerate Brexit negotiations, which have stalled of late as UK ministers and their continental counterparts struggle to agree on, well, just about anything.
May’s missive will outline explicitly a timeline of action, as well as the fiscal points of interest. In short:
- The UK will leave the EU in March 2019.
- For two years from March ’19, the UK and the EU will continue to trade as part of a transitional deal for two years.
- At this point, a permanent deal will be discussed.
- The UK will pay the EU some £20 billion for the duration of that two-year term.
The frustration of course is that the process takes so long. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, the fact is that the Leave vote won fair and square in a referendum, and so it must be upheld in as efficient manner as possible. That’s the view of the voting public anyway, who will be disgruntled at the amount of time it is taking to push Brexit over the line.
A major sticking point is that the EU wants more than the £20 billion offered, and that’s to cover long term debts and liabilities that the UK already has with the Union and are legally obligated to pay. In the end, the exit bill could far exceed that already gargantuan amount.
As you might expect, the EU negotiation team is being a bit of a stick in the mud about the whole fiasco. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has been on his high horse of late, stating that there is just a year left to iron out these disagreements – or else. Any law changes would need six months to ratify, so all involved had better get their skates on prior to the first quarter of 2019.
Barnier is still seeking clarification on the UK’s stance on border control, the guarantee of rights to EU nationals already in the UK and the financial settlement. Without clarity, it is believed that Barnier has said there will be no transitional deal.
“I am convinced that a rapid agreement on the conditions of the UK’s orderly withdrawal, and a transition period, is possible,” he said. “But for that to happen, we would like the United Kingdom to put on the table, as soon as next week, proposals to overcome the barriers.”