As the Conservative Party conference rumbled on this week the European Parliament was discussing the future of the Brexit negotiations. The European Parliament voted to urge the EU not to open the next phase of Brexit talks until a ‘major breakthrough’ had been made in the current negotiations. This is only an advisory vote as the European Parliament is not involved in the negotiations between the EU and the UK, it only votes on the final deal. However, it is likely that the European Council, when it meets later this month, will agree with the European Parliament and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator that not enough progress has been made and therefore the Brexit negotiations cannot move forward to the talks about trade that the UK has been lobbying for.
However, unlike the Nigel Farages and Boris Johnsons of this world, I think it is worth pondering whether the EU being in control is in reality a comforting thought? Whilst those of us with different positions may argue over the EU’s intentions, its position here should at least make us pause for reflection. Should we really object to prioritising the future stability of EU and UK nationals, or securing the peace in Ireland? This is going to be one of the biggest changes for Europe in recent history and will have a profound impact on everyday life. We must not lose sight of the principles we aspire to as people, and as Christians who are called to love our neighbour, whether we live in London, Lanarkshire, Lisbon or Lodz.There are three major issues which are halting the Brexit talks, namely: the rights of EU and UK citizens; the Northern Irish border; and the divorce bill (how much the UK will have to pay in order to leave the EU). The UK Government has produced a number of ‘future partnership’ papers on these topics among others. As part of my role as a part-time intern in the Lords I have been asked to go through these and to my eye these papers read like unrealistic wish lists rather than serious policy positions. It is not surprising they have not moved the negotiations on.