— EURACTIV (@EURACTIV) 20 juli 2017
This Thursday, EU-negotiator Michel Barnier, and negotiator for the UK David Davis finished a 4-day Brexit negotiation marathon. It was the second round of negotiations and the results were not unexpected, as the negotiators did not even scratch the surface of the most controversial issues which are the infamous so called ‘Brexit divorce bill’ and the subject of ensuring citizen rights, although there might be somewhat of a compromise in the works for the latter issue.
Barnier expressed his impatience with Britain’s lack of clarity and stated after the meetings that: “the third round must be about clarification.” The EU is annoyed that the Brits came to the table empty handed, questioning every single budget line included by the EU. Upon asking if there was room for compromise, Barnier said the EU is “not there yet.” Also on the part of the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, Barnier said he and Davis are at a “fundamental split,” with Barnier demanding the European Court of Justice to be involved in solving the matter, to “guarantee” the rights of EU citizens.
This, of course, was not applauded by the UK, since they don’t want foreign judges meddling in what they consider their national affairs. Barnier then made clear he would not recommend continuing negotiations in October if no progress was made on this front.
Davis on his part admitted the UK has financial obligations, but he pointed out they were mutual for both sides, and that “a solution would require flexibility on both sides.” And according to the Brits, the other 27 member states owe it money thanks to its participation in different EU assets.
Strangely, in this round, Davis did not raise the issue of Gibraltar. Spain was given veto powers over Gibraltar after Brexit by the EU. This was protested by London of course, but as said, was not raised during these sessions.
Surprisingly, Barnier’s words might have had an actual impact on the Brits. This Friday, on the issue of ‘free movement of EU citizens’, the UK showed the first signs of a compromise. According to The Independent, the UK is prepared to maintain free movement of EU citizens after Brexit, but the length remains unclear. According to The Times for instance, Prime Minister Theresa May is said to be ready to offer free movement for two years, while The Guardian quoted “a senior Cabinet source” as saying the period could even last for three or even four years.
Jeremy Corbyn scores higher than Theresa May for the first time in approval ratings poll https://t.co/A0ZX0saTco
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) 20 juli 2017
The move could very well be a much-needed step up for Theresa May since yesterday’s polls showed that she had the lowest satisfaction rating ever recorded for a Prime Minister in the month after an election.
An Ipsos Mori survey even showed that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn overtook her for the first time. The polls showed 34 percent of adults approved of her, while a whopping 59 percent was dissatisfied. The Evening Standard quoted Ipsos Mori’s Gideon Skinner:
“The turnaround in Ms May’s ratings is unprecedented in our previous data on prime ministers, from a historic high at the start of the campaign to a historic low just one month after an election, while also seeing her position among her own party supporters weakening and Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign surge continuing.”
One note to this is that 66% of Tory voters are still satisfied with May, but it takes more for her to remain in power. Escaping the Brexit deadlock, for example, would be a good start.