Jul 192017
 

According to reports of the Brexit negotiations, the second round of talks this week may be stopped ‘because the UK is not ready‘. Over a year after the EU Referendum result, we may wonder how that can be.

In the table below, I have summarised the negotiating position papers published by the European Commission and by the UK Government.

Strictly speaking, the White Papers and Terms of Reference are not formally part of the negotiations. However, the UK Government website includes them under the heading ‘position papers’, so I have included them in the table. I have also included the terms of reference, which appear on both websites, although they too are not position papers. The terms of reference set out the negotiation process, including dates of meetings.

International negotiations usually take place chapter-by-chapter. The discussions on different “chapters” usually involve the relevant experts for each chapter.

So far, as you can see from the table below, the Commission has published 10 position papers (in the strict sense) while the UK Government has published only 4. Most of the Commission’s position papers were also published in draft form when they were sent to the EU27  for comments two weeks earlier. Perhaps the UK Government’s problem has been that they also published the Repeal Bill on the same day as three of its position papers.

I have included direct links to both the EU27 and UK position papers in the table, together with their dates of publication. In a previous post, I had tried to compare the EU27 and UK positions on citizens’ rights. It was not easy because the structures of the EU27 and UK position papers are very different. Still, if anyone has the time to complete the exercise of matching the paragraphs of the UK position on citizens’ rights (in the second column) with the corresponding paragraphs of the EU27 position, here is the comparison table I had started.

As Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake observed after Brexit Minister David Davis left the talks after an hour to return to London and was pictured without any papers at the negotiating table, “This is a Government with no papers, no plan and no time for the most important negotiations of a lifetime.”

TopicDate published by
European Commission
Date published by
UK Government
Repeal Bill: White Paper15 May 2017
The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union White Paper15 May 2017
Essential principles on the financial settlementDraft: 29 May 2017
Final: 12 June 2017
Essential principles on citizens' rightsDraft: 29 May 2017
Final: 12 June 2017
26 June 2017
Terms of reference for the Article 50 TEU negotiations19 June 201719 June 2017
Nuclear materials and safeguard equipment (Euratom)Draft: 23 June 2017
Final: 13 July 2017
13 July 2017
Ongoing Police and Judicial
Cooperation in Criminal matters
Draft: 29 June 2017
Final: 13 July 2017
Functioning of the Union Institutions, Agencies and BodiesDraft: 29 June 2017
Final: 13 July 2017
13 July 2017
GovernanceDraft: 29 June 2017
Final: 13 July 2017
Goods placed on the Market under Union law before the withdrawal dateDraft: 29 June 2017
Final: 13 July 2017
Ongoing Union Judicial and Administrative Procedures13 July 201713 July 2017
Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial matters13 July 2017
Ongoing Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal matters13 July 2017
May 312017
 

As Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas pointed out this evening: “The first rule of leadership is to show up”. Apart from Theresa May, the leaders of all the major political parties (plus UKIP) took part this evening in the only televised Leaders’ Debate of the UK General Election campaign. Amber Rudd, whose father passed away on Monday, was obliged to represent the absent Conservative “leader”.

Looking back a year ago, during the EU Referendum campaign, Theresa May sat on the fence and only eventually emerged to support the Remain campaign.

David Cameron resigned after the Referendum. As the Conservatives’ main Leave campaigner, Boris Johnson appeared to be the most likely successor to lead the Conservative Party … until Michael Gove stepped into the race, somewhat treacherously. With these two safely out of the way, Theresa May became the Conservative leader and Prime Minister without any election.

This reminded me of the rise of the “hero” of the BBC’s House of Cards political series, Francis Urquhart – although there was at least a leadership election in the fictional story.

UrquhartNot feeling guilty, I hope. If you have pangs of pity, crush them now. Grind them under your heel like old cigar butts. I’ve done the country a favour. He didn’t have the brain or the heart or the stomach to rule a country like Great Britain. A nice enough man, but there was no bottom to him. … So let’s not indulge ourselves in any squeamishness — alright? Because this… is just the start.

Theresa May then appointed Leave campaigners David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to take care of Brexit and the UK’s international relations. As their campaign had been based largely on undeliverable promises, it was a bit like leaving the Keystone Cops to reorganise the police force.

Before doing that, she could have called a General Election to obtain a democratic mandate. But she didn’t.

After doing that, she could have launched a debate in Parliament about what to do in the light of the Referendum. But she didn’t.

Instead, while sterling continued to trade around 10% below its value before the Referendum, she did nothing. Eventually, she started repeating the meaningless phrase “Brexit means Brexit”. Perhaps she wanted to put people into a trance … .

She also fought a court case to require Parliament to decide on launching the Article 50 procedure, and not just her. When she ultimately lost at the Supreme Court, she rushed a back-of-the-envelope Act through Parliament.

Then, a few days after triggering the Article 50 negotiations, she called a General Election. She presented herself as a ‘strong and stable’ leader and taunted her opponents as the ‘coalition of chaos’.

Meanwhile, the Keystone Cops have shown little evidence of having a plan.

Some pointed out on social media that someone else had once promised strong and stable leadership back in the late 1920s. And people voted for it.

All this and various U-turns during the election campaign so far suggest that Theresa May is far from strong and stable. Rather, she seems to be cold, calculating, controlling, secretive and closed. Together with the Keystone Cops, they look like the real coalition of chaos leading the UK over the Brexit cliff, while forcing the elderly to pay for their social care and axing free school lunches for primary schoolchildren … although they would offer children free breakfasts – kind of.

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