“Robust yet constructive” Brexit talks – but there’s a lot still on the table

Susie Walker

Susie Walker

Partner and Head of Tax and Brexit Team

As phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations ended after four days of talks, two of the key separation issues are still on the table for debating – citizens’ rights and the amount the UK will pay to leave the EU.

David Davis, the UK Brexit Secretary, said the talks were “robust but constructive” but that flexibility on both sides was needed to come to a solution.

The focus of the last few days was to scope out the key points of difference and common ground on the separation issues. So, at the end of phase 2 where are we?

Citizens’ rights

There were some areas of agreement on how Britons living abroad and EU nationalists living in the UK should be treated after Brexit. A jointly agreed policy paper has been published on the UK Government’s website outlining both parties’ position on citizens’ rights.

However, there were areas of disagreement. From the UK standpoint obstacles still to be negotiated included the rights of employees of EU-based companies to work for extended periods in other countries, including the UK; as well as the rights of British expats to vote and stand in local elections. The UK is keen to protect these rights of citizens in their host country.

It is also felt more flexibility is needed around the proposals for Britons moving from one EU country to another. Under the current EU proposal, British people living in an EU country would lose their guaranteed rights if they moved to another EU country.

Financial obligations

The UK has agreed in principle at this stage to pay the EU exit bill, but the serious discussion around what this bill will include and the potential sum is yet to happen. This will be a key part of future talks. 

What happens now?

Going forward, both sides will meet for four days each month to continue talks. Adequate progress is needed on the key separation issues before talks can move on to future trading arrangements.

The EU Parliament’s Chief Negotiator has stated that they are hoping to come to an agreement on basic terms of a deal on EU citizens and the exit bill in October, which would lead on to discussions about the UK’s future trade relations in December.

Back in the UK, the government have announced that MPs will debate the Repeal Bill on 7 September for two days. An important stage in the Brexit process, the Bill transforms EU laws into British laws. We’ll be watching with interest the debate and awaiting the outcome.