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What is the nature of "Brexit negotiations"?

Currently, the extent to which the majority of people know what is going on with Brexit is that there are "negotiations" and "talks" taking place, but what is the nature of this discussion?

What topics are being negotiated and talked about and what are the current sticking points?

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The three issues currently being discussed are

  1. Citizens' rights
  2. The border between the UK and Ireland
  3. The UK's obligation to make good on previously agreed EU spending commitments

The sticking points are

  1. Described in detail in joint technical notes which are updated every month and which it is therefore not worth repeating in detail
  2. No-one has any sensible idea for how this can work
  3. The UK is wriggling hard on this

And in addition, for all of these, the UK's Cabinet is divided to the extent that the vice chair of the European parliament’s budget committee wrote today:

How can we make sustainable progress when nobody knows if the prime minister is able to deliver, or whether her statements will be undermined by other members of her cabinet?

  • Point 2 is BS, as is the idea that the cabinet is divided. But thanks for the other points, very informative – Charlie Oct 18 '17 at 20:24
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    @Charlie There have been several points when cabinet members have made contradictory statements regarding the EU negotiations, although whether you consider that division is of course your personal opinion. – origimbo Oct 18 '17 at 20:54
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    @Charlie, the fact that you had to ask this question in the first place suggests that you don't regularly read the political section of a broadsheet British newspaper, because the three areas of negotiation are mentioned so often that I could list them from memory. That is also one of only two easy explanations for how you can think that the Cabinet is not divided: the other being that you believe there to be an enormous media conspiracy to make it seem that way. As for paying attention to the EP vice-chair: Barnier et al have consistently seemed more realistic and credible than Davis et al. – Peter Taylor Oct 18 '17 at 21:36
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    I know it's not really one of the "issues" as such, but arguably one of the things being negotiated is when to get started with negotiating the rest of the issues (with the EU preferring to substantially move past the first three, and the UK wishing to press on). – JBentley Oct 19 '17 at 4:10
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    Re. item (2), there are 4 possible solutions: (2a) UK stays within EU customs union, so no border checks needed; (2b) border between NI and ROI with checkpoints on land; (2c) border between NI and GB, with checks at NI seaports and airports; (2d) NI joining ROI, after referendum as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. Options (a,c,d) are unacceptable to the UK government, and (b) would be deeply unpopular in (all of) Ireland and probably violate the GFA; so there is an impasse which UKgov has no concrete ideas for resolving. – Royal Canadian Bandit Oct 19 '17 at 7:52
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The two major sticking points at the moment (October 2017) are:

Citizen's rights

The UK has made a basic offer to give EU citizens already in the UK a fast track permanent residency application service. So far it has been a bit of a fiasco, initially requiring an 85 page form to be filled out and being rather expensive. On top of that the Home Office has been pushing hard to make people leave the country, resulting in letters threatening deportation being sent in "error".

The EU wants citizens to retain their existing rights. That means, for example, that they can leave the UK and come back at a later date. The current UK offer terminates if you leave for too long without obtaining full citizenship. Similarly, UK ex-pats are concerned that they will be stuck in the EU country they are in now, losing the right to move to a different one for work.

Family members are also a major unresolved issue. Freedom of movement allows family members, even non-EU ones, to join the person exercising their treaty rights. This bypasses the local immigration system entirely. Failure to maintain existing rights would rip families apart.

There is also the issue of jurisdiction. The UK is adamant that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) can no longer have control after Brexit, but the EU is unwilling to allow this because the UK courts are already failing to comply with agreed EU rules. For example, the current treatment of non-EU family members is under active investigation.

Financial commitments

The UK has many made financial commitments. As well as agreeing the EU budget up to at least 2021, it is committed to funding various EU projects. Pensions for EU staff (including British staff), funding for development projects, funding for licencing and regulatory authorities, research and more have all been agreed to.

The EU requires a commitment in principal to honour these commitments, with the exact amount to be calculated later but thought to be around €60bn. The UK has committed only to the EU budget during a transition period, not all the other stuff.

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    The application for a Document Certifying Permanent Residence is down to 8 pages, costing £65, plus £20 if you want your passport checked instead of sending it in. It is available online, but very, very hard to find. But, as Theresa May put it, Permanent Residence doesn't mean Permanent Residence, so this document is according to her worthless. We'll see. Instead she promised "streamlined processing", without actually saying what criteria would apply. In other words, she is just trying to hide that she hasn't got a clue. – gnasher729 Oct 19 '17 at 21:38
  • There are many other questions. What about ex-pats in the EU with non-EU spouses? At the moment they have the right to live in the UK forever. – user Oct 20 '17 at 10:28
  • The impression I had is that the biggest problem with respect to family reunion isn't ripping families apart but preventing future reunion such as bringing over an elderly parent who can no longer be independent. – Peter Taylor Oct 20 '17 at 11:03
  • "The UK is adamant that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) can no longer have control after Brexit" ... control of what exactly? – CactusCake Oct 20 '17 at 14:30
  • @CactusCake The ECJ gets the final say on EEA immigration issues at the moment. – user Oct 21 '17 at 11:23

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