European Union (EU) leaders met in Gothenburg, Sweden on November 16 and 17 to discuss jobs and growth within their continent. Talks quickly turned from the issue at hand to that of Brexit efforts, or lack thereof. Since the legitimization of Article 50, the legislation stating the UK’s intent to leave the EU, in parliament nearly eight months ago, Brexit efforts have struggled to reach the second stage of negotiations to leave the European Union. Issues raised include those of how much the UK will need to pay the EU upon its exit, the current border disputes between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK citizens living across the EU (the only issue raised whose theoretical progress has been deemed sufficient).
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said the government is willing to pay more alimony than originally stated. Speculation puts the figure at £40 billion (C$67.7 billion), which is still less than the EU’s request for £60 billion (C$101.56 billion). Even if this new sum receives approval from the remaining 27 EU members, the border disputes with Ireland remain a dire matter.
An EU working paper states that trade trade rules must remain the same on both sides of the Irish border to avoid a hard border. This effectively requires Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union and single market, both things the UK government hopes to avoid when leaving the EU.
Without any sort of deal, the UK and would have to abide by the World Trade Organization’s regulations.
The UK has stated that it will uphold the Good Friday Agreement that decommissioned paramilitary groups, and opened the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland, and citizen groups in Northern Ireland, have made it known that they will not accept a hard border on the island. Varadkar has stated that the Irish government will accept nothing less than a written promise on the surety of the Irish border.
Given the problem of the Irish border, it seems increasingly unlikely that Brexit talks wil move on to the second round at the EU council meeting on December 14 and 15. UK Brexit negotiator and finance secretary Philip Hammond is confident that he will have a proposal ready by that date.Should the proposal not be accepted, the UK has threatened to suspend negotiations until the EU is ready to take the UK’s proposals seriously. Suspending talks would further postpone the withdrawal process. meaning that the departure of the UK from the EU would be delayed until March 2019.