The UK adopts the EU-27 “four weeks negotiations” proposal, as EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis have concluded their initial meeting sth the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.
The meeting came after pressure from Brussels to set a date close to 19 June, as the European Council three days later would be a good chance for Barnier to inform the EU-27 about how the negotiations are to take place. According to what both sides revealed during their first press conference on Monday afternoon at the Berlaymont, the “four-week negotiating model” is expected to give pace to talks and achieve results faster.
“Talks about talks” set timetable and priorities
As for the first negotiations round, “talks about talks” have already bared fruit with Britain and the EU agreeing on the priorities and timetable for Brexit negotiations after the first session of talks.
“Today we agreed on dates, we agreed on organisation and we agreed on priorities for negotiations,” Barnier told journalists, describing the four-week model that the EU had proposed during the initial technical talks that took place the week before Davis agreed to land to the Belgian capital.
According to the timetable set by the negotiating teams, further talks would be held in the weeks starting on 17 July, 28 August, 18 September and 9 October.
As for the four-week cycles, as Barnier confirmed, will split into four parts, with just the few first days, namely the first week of each cycle to be Barnier – Davis negotiations. “Our aim is to have one week of negotiations every month,” said Barnier that further described the break-down of talks to into three groups that are to deal with: Citizens rights, Single financial settlement and Other separation issues.
The preparatory groups will report to chief negotiators, on the table, each negotiating week. “In the first step we will deal with the most pressing issues, in the second step will scope our future partnership,” added Barnier.
Northern Ireland talks passed over to deputy chief negotiators
N. Ireland is expected to be dealt with early on, between Oliver Robbins, UK prime minister’s Sherpa, her chief diplomatic advisor and number two in the negotiations after Davis from the UK side and European Commission’s Deputy Chief Negotiator Sabine Weyand on the EU-27 side.
Both Davis and Barnier denied the downgrading of the N. Ireland issue by assigning the negotiations to their deputies, suggesting that the issue remains a top priority and that further progress is expected as new administrations receive positions.
“It is not fair to say we have set it aside, far from it,” said Barnier, reassuring journalists that him and Davis have spent a lot of time talking about this issue already this day. “We have N. Ireland new executive, New Irish Taoiseach and UK administration, I will be meeting new Irish foreign minister in Luxembourg,” added Barnier. “Ideas have not changed.”
“N. Ireland has taken more time today than anything else,” said Davis on UK’s behalf reminding that the issue is politically sensitive, just to add that determining an invisible border is the point. “I am certain it is soluble”.
Citizens rights share common ground
As for which negotiating subject should be expected to deliver faster, this would rather be citizens rights. “At rights of citizens there is much common ground,” said Davis. “We hope we can get a reasonable and fast resolution.”
Barnier: “I prefer transparency to leaks”
According to Barnier, the intention on behalf of the European Commission is to keep talks as transparent as possible. However, not much clarity was provided immediately after the first official meeting of the EU-UK sides. “In coordination with Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the intention is to be in an unusual way, transparent,” said Barnier, as both the European Commission and European Council presidents will take part in informative talks with the EU member states. “We want to have as broad a debate as possible.”
Describing the negotiation as exceptional, Barnier denied to give further details on how he will secure the transparency of talks. “I prefer transparency to leaks,” were his words, that could suggest the publication of positions at the end of every negotiating cycle.