Joint Brexit Committee: European Commission and British Cabinet
The infamous Brexit. With the UK primed to legally exit the EU on 29 March, 2019, the Brexit negotiations will soon enter the final stage. Yet, divisions and tensions remain between the EU and British negotiators on numerous contentious issues, rendering a final agreement out of reach. Will this be a “hard” Brexit, or a “soft” Brexit? The Joint Brexit Committee must surmount the challenge of attaining an encompassing, mutually satisfying deal, whilst ensuring a smooth transition into the post-Brexit stage.
Topic 1: Finance & Trade
The EU Divorce bill, also known as the financial settlement, is a sum of money demanded by the EU from the UK as it withdraws from the Union. The sum is calculated based on the UK’s financial commitments and obligations when it was a member of the EU, encompassing commitments apart from the EU core budget, as well as the UK’s entitlement to certain EU assets. It has yet, however, to take into account the UK’s investment in the European Development Fund, and its shares in the European Investment Bank.
Moreover, with the UK exiting the EU customs union, new trade laws are necessary. However, both sides are divided on the issue; the UK insists on its independence from EU laws and supremacy yet desires a bespoke free trade agreement and access to the EU Single Market, while the EU’s intention is to protect the stability of the EU Single Market, offering only access with obligations. As such, the two parties are at an impasse, with experts positing a free trade agreement could take up to a decade to complete and still fail, as the agreement would not include much of the services sector (which constitutes around 80% of the UK’s economy), and is likely to damage the UK economy. Furthermore, the question of the Irish border remains heavily debated, as the EU is concerned with sub-standard or banned goods entering the Republic of Ireland (hence, EU territory) via a Britain-North Ireland route and has proposed regulatory measures, while the UK has refused the possibility of regulatory barriers.
Topic 2: Security Issues
Following a string of terrorist attacks in Europe in the last decade, the question of European security has grown more essential than ever. Yet, with the UK’s exit from the EU, both sides risk weakening their collective security and defense cooperation. In particular, a no-deal scenario - whereby no close EU-UK relationship is agreed upon - would pose an enormous threat to European and British security. The Irish border question resurfaces, this time under the umbrella of security concerns, with new arrangements on the UK’s border with the Republic of Ireland likely to pose practical, political, and economic challenges. Furthermore, both the EU and the UK face the possibility of losing homeland data flows, police and judicial cooperation, giving free rein to terrorists, traffickers, and organized criminals to conduct their dangerous and life-threatening operations. Indeed, with the UK’s emphasis on independence from EU laws and oversight, Westminster has made clear that although it intends to implement EU data protection provisions, it will reject possibility of oversight by EU redress systems, and by the European Court of Justice. Likewise, countries such as Germany that prioritize civil liberties would be unlikely to allow sensitive data flows to the UK without a clear, legal, supervisory framework - and so, the possibility of future cooperation on security issues has been left hanging in the air. However, in the seemingly endless fight against terror and crime, this is hardly an option, for all parties involved. It is thus the Joint Brexit Committee’s responsibility to prevent political differences and disagreements in negotiations from weakening Europe’s ability to protect its citizens.
Sir Tim Barrow
Sir Vince Cable