Brexit continues to be discussed and debated between the UK and EU, as Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 on March 29, 2017. Article 50 is part of the Treaty of Lisbon, which was created in 2009 to allow any country in the EU that wishes to leave the ability to do so. The treaty calls for 2 years of negotiations to agree to the country leaving the EU, so the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. As the UK will be the first nation to leave the EU after more than 40 years, this is an unprecedented undertaking.
There are three major issues that the UK and EU have tentatively agreed to regarding freedom of movement, the border with Northern Ireland, and how much the UK will pay the EU to leave, but as negotiations continue, terms can change at any time. Here is a recap of the latest Brexit negotiations:
Freedom of Movement
Freedom of movement is one of the hallmark benefits of the EU. Any citizen can live or work in any EU member country with the same rights and benefits as their home country. With more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, freedom of movement is one of the hot button issues of the Brexit talks. There will be a transition period after Brexit takes place in March 2019, and most lawmakers have said they want freedom of movement to continue through the transition period (potentially 2 years), and citizens would have the same rights they do now. There is talk of changing the rights if a citizen moves to another EU country after the transition period. There is much more to figure out before this is final, but for now it looks like citizens will retain unrestricted freedom of movement for an additional 2 years after Brexit goes into effect.
Hard Border with Northern Ireland
The border between Northern Ireland and EU member Republic of Ireland has been a heated topic since the Brexit vote passed. Both the UK and the EU are in agreement that they do not want to return to a “hard” border – no customs guards or physical structures, but there are many issues related to trade that need to be negotiated to make this work post-Brexit. The border will continue to be debated, but both sides agree they want to continue “North-South” cooperation when it comes to travel and trade.
UK Payment to EU
The UK will owe the EU a payment (commonly referred to as the “divorce bill”) prior to leaving the EU. The EU budget is based on long term goals, and runs in 7-year spans – it is not a yearly budget process. The last budget was started in 2014, so when the UK leaves the EU in 2019, there will be several months outstanding in the current budget contract for items like pension payments that would end in 2020. Longer-term infrastructure projects that have been committed to by the UK for years beyond 2020 will also have to be paid by the UK, but the actual figures are not yet known. Some experts estimate it will be around £35 billion, but many believe it will be more. The UK and EU have agreed to the calculation method to determine the payment, but there are negotiations ongoing as to the amount of money that will be paid.
With complex issues to resolve and trade negotiations still ongoing, the changes Brexit will bring in Europe have yet to be determined. Both the UK and EU will continue talks over the next several months, and will work towards negotiating terms that work for both sides. Stay tuned for the latest Brexit updates in our upcoming newsletters and blogs!