Countdown to Brexit – May 2018

May 2018

With a little over 10 months to go until the UK officially leaves the EU, we round up the key issues surrounding Brexit over the last month.

EU Talks

Talks began this month in Brussels about what the UK-EU trade relationship will be post-Brexit. Some of the outstanding issues are the Irish Border – EU officials have so far rejected the UK’s proposals to avoid a “hard” border, the status and position of Gibraltar and the question on how a potential future relationship should be governed.

Michael Barnier, Chief Brexit Negotiator for the EU, has insisted that the final deal must include the jurisdiction of the UK-EU relationship by the European Court of Justice, a current red line issue from the UK side.

Barnier has made public warnings that talks in Brussels could still fail and has said to prepare for the worst; “No one should underestimate the risk of disagreement”. It is important to keep in mind that if there will be no agreement on the future relationship, there will be no transition period.

UK Position on Customs Arrangement

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing growing pressure from a cross party group of MPs and peers to stay in the EU Customs Union and Single Market, and to prevent a “no-deal” option for leaving the EU. Meanwhile the pro-Brexit MPs in May’s cabinet are continuing the pressure to drop any “customs partnership” with the EU. These differences between both groups pose challenges and the decision on the position of the UK with regards to the Customs solution may be delayed.

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Reversal on UK Border Staffing

The UK Home Office has reversed plans to trim border control staff numbers, and in fact add 1,000 new recruits to the UK border force to prepare for Brexit. This is to cope with the strain that Brexit is imposing on the department regarding border control, and to put programmes in place to register and grant permanent residency to EU Nationals living in Britain.

Differences in EU Member State Strategies

Construction at the Port of Rotterdam has been put on hold while they await any sort of confirmation on the UK’s position on remaining in the Customs Union. Meanwhile the Irish government are going full steam ahead on investing in their port facilities, so it is in a better position to ship direct to the EU and so reducing routing goods through the UK.

Brexit Timeline

  • June 2016 – EU Referendum in the UK
  • March 2017 – Article 50 triggered by UK Government, commencing two-year countdown to leave the EU
  • April 2018 – Talks commence between the EU and UK on the post-Brexit trade relationship
  • 14th May 2018 – General Affairs Council meeting on Brexit
  • 26th June 2018 – General Affairs Council meeting on Brexit
  • 28th & 29th June 2018- EU Council summit – decision on sufficient progress
  • 18th & 19th October 2018 – European Council summit
  • October 2018 – Tentative deadline set out by Michael Barnier for the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement
  • 13th & 14th December 2018 – European Council summit
  • Q4 2018 & Q1 2019 – Political declaration on the future relationship
  • 29th March 2019 – UK to formally leave the EU
  • 31st December 2020 – Transition period ends


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