There was bitter disappointment from British in Europe to a 17-page report which talks of “agreements in principle” and states the caveat “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, leaving millions of EU in UK citizens uncertain about their futures, 18 months after the referendum.
Chair of British in Europe, Jane Golding, said: "This deal is even worse than we expected. After 18 months of wrangling, the UK and EU have sold 4.5 million people down the river in a grubby bargain that will have a severe impact on ordinary people's ability to live their lives as we do now."
The key areas that the two parties focused on during the first talks were citizens’ rights, the Irish border and financial settlement and following the publication of the report, announced that “sufficient progress” had been made, allowing them to move on to phase two.
In terms of citizens’ rights, the joint report covered stipulated that Brits living in EU countries and vice versa would still be entitled to the European Health Card (EHIC) once the UK left the EU and that any social security payments made before Brexit would still be amalgamated. However, with the “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” caveat, these and other decisions remain in the balance.
With regards to the Irish border situation the report states that the two parties respect “the importance of the achievements made in the peace process” following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (signed 10/04/98) and recognise the importance of a “soft border” between the two countries.
On the third point; the financial settlement, the joint report refers to the UK’s budgetary commitments up to 2020, which includes a number of ongoing funding projects to which the UK has already signed up. The UK will continue to participate in the current phase of European Development Funding (EDF) which is currently in its eleventh round. This also means that the UK will continue to be a beneficiary of EDF money where projects are ongoing.
The report is due to be heard in the European Parliament in Strasbourg this Wednesday and assuming MEPs vote to accept it, which they are expected to do, an announcement will be made on Friday that the negotiations will enter phase two. However, some Euro politicians have voiced concerns about the lack of real progress in terms of citizens’ rights.
Phase two of the negotiations are set to cover the UK’s membership of EURATOM (European atomic energy community) as well as its relationship with the EU vis à vis security, defence, terrorism and international crime and the role of the European Court of Justice. With little more than a year to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, on 31 March 2019, Bremain in Spain Chair, Sue Wilson said in a press statement on Friday, “Those issues are far from resolved and will no doubt remain a major bone of contention. As we are moving to phase two of the negotiations, citizens' rights issues will be buried under discussions of trade and transition. If the outstanding issues could not be resolved when we were supposedly one of only three priorities, what chance is there when we are one of many more?"