IMPACT – MEDIUM
Brexit negotiations are set to begin Monday between U.K.’s Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier while a political cloud hangs over Prime Minister Theresa May in the U.K.
The meeting will set out the structure of talks to follow in months to come, and will focus on the rights of EU nationals in the U.K. and vice versa, the financial settlement and other issues related to the divorce. The EU’s position is that the separation agreement must be resolved before future trade relations can be discussed. According to the BBC, EU officials have said that the U.K. has agreed to this approach, but Davis is not budging on wanting divorce and trade talks to occur simultaneously.
An early resolution on citizens’ rights would provide certainty to the more than 3 million EU citizens currently living and working in the U.K. and more than 1 million Britons living in the EU.
At home, May’s political future is uncertain. Following a shocking election defeat, she is in negotiations to form a fragile government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Blamed for running a lackluster campaign that failed to connect with ordinary voters, May now faces criticism for not meeting with victims of an apartment building fire in West London that killed more than a dozen residents last week, and her budget cuts are being scrutinized as a possible contributor to unsafe conditions leading to the fire.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Brandon Lewis has been appointed Minister of State for Immigration for the new U.K. government. Having originally opposed Brexit, he is now a supporter of May and voted against unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to remain in the U.K. He reiterated that May has vowed to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands but has refused to say whether he agrees with the pledge, according to British media.
BAL Analysis: While the U.K. government’s priorities will become clearer by the end of June when the Queen’s Speech lays out the new government’s priorities, the Conservatives’ minority government is expected have a weakened hand in negotiations. It is hoped that an early decision will be made on the rights of EU nationals already living in the U.K. or arriving ahead of Brexit, to give much needed certainty to individuals and employers alike.
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