A very informative thread by Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska on what we know so far about the first round of negotiations between the EU and the UK.

First published in March 2020.

The EU and the UK have finished the first round of their negotiations on the future relationship. So what do we know so far?

Each side has delegated around 110-120 people for these negotiations. The EU has drawn from expertise of 22 European Commission Directorate-General, European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Council Secretary-General.

Although the talks differ from the article 50 negotiations the EU will keep similar negotiating structures. I have written about this here:

EU sticking to tried and tested approach to Brexit talks. / Encompass

In particular, we will see the continuation of the so-called ‘Barnier method’ whereby the EU negotiator will report after each session to the Council working party and to the European Parliament co-ordination group. He will also travel to capitals and to national parliaments.

This full transparency policy will make it easier for him to keep the EU27 united in the next months to come. Last time round the transparency policy has kept the UK on the defensive, and left the impression that the UK was working to an agenda set by the EU.

Close collaboration with national parliaments and with the European Parliament will be particularly useful in the second phase. Even if the deal does not require national ratification (not entirely clear yet) both MPs and MEPs could be Barnier’s ‘bad cops’, especially on Level Playing Field.

As I have argued before, the EU will make the negotiations conditional on the proper implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. In other words: the policy of mutual trust and no going back on commitments.

In this context, the joint committee will play a bigger role than many might think. It is not without a reason that the UK delegated a heavy weight to lead the UK delegation, Michael Gove.

Turning to the substance of the talks: there are 11 negotiating tables. Common foreign and security policy was left out from the talks upon the request of the British. From what I hear the UK is not interested in comprehensive and well organised co-operation and prefers ad-hoc arrangements.

As expected already the first week of the talks shows that the parties are far apart on 1) Level Playing Field, 2) fish, 3) justice and home affairs (including the European Convention on Human Rights and the role of the European Court of Justice), and 4) governance.

The UK is not saying that it will undercut the EU. But it just doesn’t want its commitment to upholding to the highest labour and environmental standards to be locked in the legal agreement. In other words, it is saying “Trust us! We will not do this.”

Whereas the EU officials seem to think that whilst the vibrant civil society in the UK would not allow the government to slash these high standards, anyway it needs a safety net or an insurance policy.

And when it comes to state aid some in Brussels seem to think that this government will not hesitate to experiment with state aid if needed. It is unlikely to budge on this.

This brings me to the governance issue. The UK refuses to accept an umbrella governance system because it could potentially enable the EU to punish the UK across the policy fields if London decided to violate the Level Playing Field provisions.

Whereas these concerns are justified, the EU is right to point that the comprehensive governance gives the parties flexibility to further develop and upgrade its future partnership over time. Besides, backtracking on this objective would make the EU look silly vis-a-vis Switzerland.

Final comment about justice and home affairs. There is growing pressure on the EU institutions to treat internal and external threats to the rule of law seriously. If anyone thinks that the EU will drop eventually its ‘European Convention on Human Rights condition’ in exchange for close justice and home affairs collaboration they should think again.

Tweets posted on 5 March 2020 by @AgataGostynska.


Check their Voting Record:

🗳️ Michael Gove

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 8 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pixabay.)