The European commision is facing split opinions from member states over the way the commission has dealt with Britain as it begins to wind up its move towards leaving the trading bloc. Many smaller nations have called on the leader of the commission Jean-Claude Juncker to begin trade talks as early as possible with Britain in order to avoid potential catastrophes to trade and movement of people.
But so far the leader of the commission has stood firm, insisting that there will be no negotiation until Britain trigger article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, signalling their wish to exit from the union. This event seems to be nearing as a vote earlier this week signalled that the government was prepared to share their plans on the exit with parliament. The vote in effect rubber stamped the triggering of article 50, and signalled that it will be allowed to pass through the chamber uninterrupted. Much to the chagrin of many on the left of Labour, and the Liberal Democrats who are planning to try and stop the triggering at all costs.
Most of the smaller nations have more in the deal than the bigger nations, as Britain is a significant buyer of goods from Eastern Europe, also Britain has a relatively high population of people from Eastern Europe, and those governments would certainly want to settle any future migration issues as early as possible with Britain.
But there appears to be a thawing of relations as many in the commission have voiced that deals should be being done already, and senior cabinet ministers in the UK have been talking up the possibility of a bridging agreement that would cover the period after Britain’s expected exit in march 2019 until trade deals were in place. Michel Barnier the chief negotiator for the Union, has also thawed his rhetoric by conceding that a bridging deal may well work well for both sides.
Whilst many nations aren’t comfortable with a trade deal negotiation going on at the same time as an exit one, it appears that as Britain’s trade and free movement is so embedded within the European structure, these deals will need to be done in parallel to try and make the transition as smooth as possible to both sides. Any talk of “Hard Brexit” appears to have disappeared completely, as it would appear that at the very least, informal negotiations may have begun in the background. This seems entirely likely as the rhetoric has taken a decidedly softer tone in the past month, and would appear that at least the politicking has ended and now the real business of negotiation can begin.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.