A few important points emerged this week about the future of Brexit talks, as we move onto trade. Head EU negotiator Michel Barnier shared a chart showing how the UK red lines have to lead to a trade deal similar to Canada. May has repeatedly said she does not want this type of deal, which would restrict access to trade for important parts of the UK economy, such as finances.
On this point, Barnier actually ruled out the London financial sector getting a special status: “There is no free-trade agreement between the European Union and third-country partners that would enable privileged access for financial services.” (x)
Also, perhaps even more powerfully, he said that the UK could no longer stop Brexit, without an approval vote from the EU27. Subject of debate from the start, it has been difficult to predict how the EU would interpret Article 50 on this, since no country has exited before. However, EU frustration with the lack of UK preparation and continuing uncertainty, has made the 27 want to move on from Brexit as soon as possible, not go backwards. So many resources have been devoted to these negotiations, the EU desperately wants to move forward to other important topics, such as future reforms.
Still, May and her government continue to talk and act at home like room to negotiate exists. The EU has been open about what it can offer the UK from the beginning and has not moved from that position. Not accepting freedom of movement or European courts means no free access to trade. And truly, Barnier cannot move from this position without approval from the EU27. While the talks have moved forward, uncertainty still feels like the theme, and 2018 will most likely determine the future relationship for the two sides, for better or worse…