London, UK (ViaNews) – It has been eighteen months since the people of Britain attempted to see through the lies and misinformation, and narrowly voted to leave the EU.
Following talks late last week, Theresa May has made sufficient progress (or backed down on enough issues, depending on your viewpoint, for the EU to move on to phase two of the plans for the UK’s exit from the European Union. The fine details of what will be retained in the ‘divorce’, who will get the CDs and the car, can now begin.
The cost of the upheaval is going to be heavy, of that there can be little doubt. Close to £40 billion is the most quoted figure, although the Government will say little beyond that they have secured ‘a good deal for the British taxpayer’. Extra charges could also come into play.
Certain guarantees are now in place. The rights of EU citizens living and working in Britain will be maintained, as will those of British people living elsewhere in the union. Even more significantly, in terms of moving negotiations forward, a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland has been avoided.
Reactions to the news of agreement in negotiations have been mixed. Mrs May’s recalcitrant cabinet members, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, have come together for once to congratulate her on her work. Gove called the agreement a ‘significant personal achievement’ while the Foreign Secretary was even more effusive.
‘Congratulation to PM for her determination in getting today’s deal’ he wrote, ‘We now aim to forge a deep and special partnership with our European friends and allies while remaining true to the referendum result – taking back control of our laws, money and borders for the whole of the UK.’
Those from the cabinet who wished for a softer line on Brexit also reported their satisfaction, saying that there was plenty of time now for the UK to enter the thorny issue of trade talks with the EU.
However, EU President Donald Tusk, while congratulating Theresa May for her determination to do the best for Britain, warned that the journey to amicable separation had only just begun, and the road ahead was a windy one, almost certain to contain hidden potholes. He also warned that time to complete their journey was tight considering the difficult business that would need to be negotiated next. Top of that list is securing trade deals that are agreeable to both sides.
Despite some hard Brexiteers’ views, it is generally agreed that such a deal is more important to Britain than Europe.
Mr Tusk’s thoughts were echoed by members of the Labour Party. Former shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said on BBC Radio Five Live that he was happy in principle with the broad agreements the Prime had reached with Europe. However, he said that Theresa May should have reached this point far more quickly, rather than wasting time on what he saw as a pointless election and making promises on which she later back-tracked.
The key areas of agreement reached between Britain and the EU are as follows:
- The rights of EU citizens in Britain, and British citizens in the EU are guaranteed, including the rights to remain in their adopted countries. These rights are extended to ‘durable’ partners and children.
- The European Court of Justice will continue to be available for referral for eight years after Britain’s withdrawal occurs.
- The whole of the UK will be leaving the customs union; however, the talks have failed to define how this will practically happen in the tricky case of Ireland
- Police and security issues will continue to move forward jointly
- Britain will honour its financial commitments to the EU until 2020, although the actual figures are not revealed. Pension contributions and other liabilities will continue to be paid.
- The market will continue unchanged prior to Britain’s withdrawal and disruption for trade will be minimised
News of the agreement has prompted a recovery for the pound against the Euro.
However, there is still uncertainty over the details. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar declared himself fully satisfied with the agreement over an Irish border, and stated that there was no plan to create a united Ireland through the back door, stating that he had no more of a wish for a ‘border in the Irish sea’ than one on the island itself.
Critics, though, are concerned. They say that the lack of detail over cost, trading arrangements and the customs union are worrying. The lack of published specifics could lead to uncertainty, especially in Ireland. If agreements there do not satisfy the DUP, they could defeat the Government in Parliament (the Labour party could well oppose Brexit plans, and the Lib Dems almost certainly will. The Scottish Nationalists have no wish to leave Europe). Equally, if Ireland feel that the deal they want moves away from what they currently believe is the case, they could veto proposals.
The risk, suggest May’s critics, is that while Britain might finally be embarking on a new life, it could be an expensive process. While everybody hopes that the divorce agreement will be acceptable by all, the danger remains that the very things which broke the marriage in the first place might still be at the forefront of any new relationship.