The European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) have made progress in efforts to reach agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the union, but the most sensitive sticking points remain, delegation heads Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab said at the end of a new week of negotiations. Progress was made on security – mainly extradition mechanisms, airline passengers’ data in the fight against terrorism, exchanging DNA data, fingerprints and vehicles – according to Barnier.
However, the concrete translation of the guarantees offered by London on the protection of fundamental rights and the role of the European Court of Justice as final arbiter of EU law is still in discussion, particularly the procedural rights of suspects, he added.
Barnier said there was a broad coherence of views on foreign policy, external security and defence. He sought to reassure London on Galileo, the European project on satellite navigation from which the UK threatened to withdraw its support and develop its own satellite system.
Despite the progress recognized by the two parties, many issues are still pending, such as the protection of some 3,000 EU geographic indications. “Brexit cannot lead to a loss of existing intellectual property rights,” the EU Chief Brexit negotiator said.
Doubts also need to be cleared up about the protection of personal data to be transmitted to the UK until the end of the transition period by banks, insurance companies or police services, even though there is real and good progress in these areas. Other issues such as Euratom are still in discussion.
However, the two sides have made no progress on the sensitive issue of the border between Ireland, which remains in the EU, and the British province of Northern Ireland, which will have to leave the Union along with the rest of the UK as a result of Brexit. “We need technical data on the nature, the areas concerned. Who, how, where, when,” Barnier said.
The EU is also awaiting the translation into legal terms of a so-called “backstop” solution, which would keep Northern Ireland within the customs union and single market if London and Brussels fail to reach agreement on their future relationship.
Dominic Raab said, for his part, that he was even more confident that an agreement would be reached in time for the European Council meeting in October. He admitted that there was a small room for manoeuvre.
It’s not a matter of days or even of a few weeks, Barnier confirmed, adding that an agreement was expected before November.