Germany: If Britain Wants a Deal, It Must Deal With ‘Leftovers’ From Previous Phase of Brexit Talks

By Paul Bissegger (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Britain has been warned by the government of Germany that there are still “leftovers” from the earlier phase of negotiations regarding Brexit that must be dealt with if Prime Miniter Theresa May wants a final deal.

Though British and EU negotiators inked a joint text last December on Northern Ireland, the citizens’ rights, and the divorce bill, the said agreement merely represented “sufficient progress” in order to continue to the next phase of discussion and left various loose ends.

In a statement that was posted on social media, the top diplomat of Germany who is in charge of Brexit, Peter Ptassek, said that he had a “friendly reminder” for the negotiating team of the United Kingdom.

“‘Sufficient progress’ in withdrawal questions meant: we are not there yet. More work to be done,” said Ptassek.

“Many Brexit leftovers will surface when EU-Commission starts drafting withdrawal agreement, e.g. text on Ireland! Point here is: Legal text has to be clear.”

Ptassek’s statement was then re-posted by the deputy chief negotiator of the European Commission and the second in command after Michel Barnier, Sabine Weyand, suggesting that Brussels is on the same page as Berlin.

The side of the United Kingdom is now eager to continue to discussions regarding the transition period, which is set to begin within weeks, and the future trade framework, which the European Union says can start in March. Brussels says that the deadline for a full withdrawal agreement is set in October in order to give institutions of the European Union some time to examine and ratify the plan.

The intervention is a reminder that negotiators of the United Kingdom could be left fighting a rear-guard action on issues that are already deemed to be put to bed, while they also strive to negotiate on trade and transition.

Possible loose ends include the exact rights that the citizens of the European Union and Britain who are currently living abroad will have after Brexit – as well as how the problem of the Northern Irish border will be exactly resolved.

The original draft mostly consisted of a guarantee from the United Kingdom to avoid a hard border with the Irish Republic instead of an actual negotiated solution for the province – even though Britain did suggest that it would keep rules aligned across the United Kingdom with the single market of the European Union in the event of no other solution being obtained.

The negotiating team of the European Union has however informed member states that it consisted this backstop to be incompatible with the stated policy of the United Kingdom of leaving the single market and the customs union.

A further scrutiny was done on the withdrawal agreement last December after David Davis prompted an outcry across the channel by suggesting that the deal was a mere “statement of intent” rather than a document that is legally binding. This led the negotiators of the European Union to demand that it be converted into legal text as soon as possible and prompted a protracted and probably embarrassing public climb-down for the Brexit Secretary.

Germany’s warning arises amid reports that the government of the country wants the United Kingdom to contribute to the budget of the European Union as a quid-pro-quo for the City still having access to the financial markets of the European Union as part of a trade deal.