There was bitter disappointment from the organisation British in Europe to a joint report by the UK government and the EU which outlines the progress made during the first phase of Brexit negotiations. The 17-page document, released last Friday, talks of “agreements in principle” and states the caveat “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, leaving millions of EU and UK citizens uncertain about their futures, some 18 months after the referendum result.
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 focused on during the first phase of talks were citizens' rights, the Irish border and a financial settlement. The publication of the report, which announced that “sufficient progress” had been made, now allows them to move on to phase two.
Progress so far
In terms of citizens' rights, the report stipulates that Brits staying in EU countries and vice versa will still be entitled to the European Health Card (EHIC) once the UK has left the EU and that any social security payments made before Brexit will still be amalgamated. However, with the “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” caveat, these and other decisions remain in the balance.
With regard 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 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 now 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 was approved in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday and an announcement is due to be made today, 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.
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 echoed these sentiments in a press statement on Friday: “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?”