Brexit Negotiations Stall as Next Deal Vote is Confirmed
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
This Week In Brexit
Happy International Women’s Day to all of you! Hope you enjoy our cover image as we celebrate this important day! This week was a bit slow in Brexit, what some would call the “calm before the storm” as we gear up for the big vote on May’s Brexit deal coming on 12 March. Get ready to pop some popcorn Britain, as next week will feel like a night at the cinema. Here’s what happened this week.
To start the week, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox officially dropped his request for a time-limit on the Northern Irish backstop (I’ve so missed talking about the backstop, people) after EU negotiators read his demands as ‘too blunt’ and rejected them. The backstop remains at the forefront of stalls in talks, but we’ll get to that later. At the same time, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Leader Nigel Dodds said his party will only accept any changes to the backstop if they were legally binding and actually written into the Withdrawal Agreement. The DUP alliance with the Conservative Party allows Prime Minister May to hold a small majority in the House of Commons (aka if she sets down dinner on the table and they say they want dessert first, they GET that dessert first).
New talks began on Tuesday between Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK negotiating team in a last-ditch attempt to have a breakthrough before the 12 March vote. But seeing as how the word “breakthrough” is thrown around pretty much daily in Brexit news with little success, I’ll bet a fiver that I’ll be saying that the breakthrough ‘breaks down’ somewhere later in this report. The EU also stated that they are willing to give May further guarantees to push her embattled deal through Parliament in the next vote. At the same time, Geoffrey Cox’s office stated that he is moving his focus to finding a “arbitration mechanism” (which I had to look up multiple times to find a suitable definition for the Brexit glossary I mean honestly who else knows what this means) to allow the UK to leave the Northern Irish backstop at some point after Brexit. This was a result of the EU rejecting his demands on a time-limit for the backstop.
Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay met with Michel Barnier on Wednesday to continue their negotiation discussions. As they met it came from Downing Street that many officials there believe these last ditch talks will not succeed (cough cough guess who called it first cough cough) and that they are preparing for Article 50 to be extended should the supposed breakthrough break-down (I’m not letting that go any time soon).
The negotiation talks finished on Thursday with, surprise surprise, no breakthrough! (I’ll take that fiver now please thank you). However, Geoffrey Cox said that both sides have put forward ‘reasonable proposals’ and that talks would resume again shortly (You know, because there is SO much time left before Brexit). The EU gave UK officials 48 hours to come up with solid proposals by Friday, and that they would work non-stop over the weekend if they approved those proposals. They also offered for May to meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday if ‘progress was made’. Let the skepticism on ‘progress’ begin.
The week ended with May preparing to give a speech in Grimsby, begging the EU to give her more ground on the Brexit deal as she prepares for the 12 March vote. In a statement she said that while MPs have a major decision to make next week, so does the EU. She stated “it is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal” (I mean I’m pretty sure it’s everyone’s interest but ok) This came as House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed today that the next vote on May’s Brexit Deal will be on Tuesday the 12th of March, 17 days to the 29 March leave date.
With just four days to the next major vote on the Brexit deal, I hope all of you are as excited as I am. And by excited, I mean excited to sit on the Tube to work that morning and hear EVERYONE discussing it, getting into work and spending 8 hours reading about it and watching it as that’s my job, and then going home that night to hear from on the train discussing, and then getting home and discussing it with my flatmates. No Britain, I’m not bitter whatsoever.
Northern Irish Backstop: refers to the border between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland. It is an insurance policy so that an actual hard border does come into being. Post-Brexit, this will be the only land border between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Withdrawal Agreement: the official title of the treaty for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union
Arbitration Mechanism: a mechanism that would allow someone, presumably a third-party, to settle a dispute, in this case over the Northern Irish backstop post-Brexit
Article 50: the article that the United Kingdom imposed when it made its sovereign decision to leave the European Union. This article gave the leave date a maximum of two years time from its imposition.
29 March: the date on which the United Kingdom will officially separate from the European Union.