Well, its been an interesting two weeks since Mrs May’s Florence address. The more conciliatory tone she offered during that speech, even putting an initial figure on the divorce/settlement, has now been replaced by increasing support from the political and media class for a Hard Brexit. The popular press in the UK, including the more measured broadsheets, seem determined to force an abrupt exit in March 2019.
The EU set out its priorities early in the process highlighting 3 pillars that must be concluded before any negotiations on trading arrangements could begin:
- the divorce/settlement amount
- rights of EU citizens in the UK post Brexit
- Northern Ireland
The UK chief negotiator, David Davis, has consistently tried to thwart this agenda and accelerate trade talks ahead of the 3 pillars. This has not gone down well with Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator on the EU side. The EU is resolutely sticking to its position in terms of the 3 pillar priorities. Therefore, we have deadlock.
The implications? Well, the odds are shortening rapidly on a hard Brexit. When the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 in the absence of an agreement it means EU citizens in the UK will lose all protections they currently enjoy like, employment rights, social benefits…. even residency right !! The implications for returned Irish nationals from the UK could well mean that current provisions towards enhancement of state pension benefit rights is withdrawn thereby, closing a window of opportunity for Irish nationals to improve their UK state pensions. Given the acute anti-immigrant mood currently prevailing, this is not too far-fetched.
That is why it is important to act NOW !!