Update on negotiations and representing our members’ interests

ScotlandIS News | 06.12.2017

Update on negotiations and representing our members’ interests

By Svea Miesch, Research and Policy Manager

As the Brexit negotiations enter a crucial phase, this briefing provides members with an assessment of the challenges the negotiators are facing, the potential scenarios for the next few months and an update on the work that ScotlandIS is doing to represent members’ interests with regards to Brexit.

Current state of play
At the next meeting on the 14th & 15th of December, the EU heads of state will decide if sufficient progress has been made to move the Brexit negotiations to the next level which are talks about the future relationship between the EU and the UK. The UK and EU negotiation teams must make considerable progress before this Friday to allow enough time for the EU27 to prepare their decision for next week.   If the EU27 come to the conclusion that sufficient progress hasn’t been made, the next opportunity to review this decision will be at the end of March 2018. This would clearly reduce even further the amount of time left for negotiating a trade deal and other post-Brexit arrangements, and will increase uncertainty for business and citizens.

The three topics that negotiators need to reach agreement on are:

  • the future status and rights for EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU,
  • the amount the UK will have to pay before leaving the EU and
  • the question of the UK-Ireland border.

Citizens’ Rights
Most progress has been made on citizens’ rights. Of particular importance to Scotland’s digital technologies sector, it now looks very likely that all EU citizens currently working in the UK will be able to stay in the country at least until they accumulate enough years of residence to apply for British citizenship. This hopefully reassures EU citizens working in our industry and their employers. An overview of the negotiation status on citizens’ rights is available here.

The “exit bill”
Until a few weeks ago the size of the “exit bill” the UK will have to pay was the main roadblock in the talks but this issue now seems close to being resolved. On 29th of November, it was reported that the UK Government is willing to pay up to £49bn, not as a one-off payment but in stages. This seems to be have been welcomed by the EU negotiators which brings an agreement on this question much closer than ever before.

The Irish Border
The future of the UK’s land border with Ireland now appears to be the last hurdle. Both sides agree that no hard border, with physical infrastructure, should be created but it remains unclear how this can be avoided if the UK leaves the EU single market and the customs union. Over the weekend, the UK Government reached a compromise with the Irish Government, which has the final say on this question for the EU27. This compromise assured the Irish Government “that there is continued regulatory alignment” between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the DUP opposed this compromise on Monday, 4th of December, and a new solution will have to be found by this Friday, 8th of December. Otherwise, the negotiations cannot be moved to the next level at the summit of the EU heads of state.

 

Representing Members’ Interests
During the whole Brexit negotiation process, ScotlandIS has been engaging with MSPs, MPs and officials from the Scottish and UK Governments to make sure they are fully aware of the concerns and needs of our members and the wider digital technologies industry in Scotland. Most recently, we have focused on the preparations for post-Brexit arrangements for immigration and trade that are already underway in Edinburgh and London.

We have responded to two consultations about the future of EU immigration to the UK. The first response, to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament, was submitted in partnership with Technology Scotland, the trade body for the Emerging & Enabling Technologies sector in Scotland, as they face very similar skills issues.

The second response was to the recent call for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee which is developing recommendations for the UK Government on the new immigration system for EU nationals.

Both submissions were informed by interviews with a cross-section of members. They made clear that the digital technologies industry continues to need quick, un-bureaucratic and cost-effective access to non-UK labour after Brexit to thrive and grow its significant contribution to the economy.

We also discussed the priorities of our industry regarding trade and access to markets with Scottish Government officials and will continue to work on this topic in preparation for potential future UK-EU trade deal negotiations.

To allow all ScotlandIS members to raise their hopes and concerns regarding Brexit directly with policy makers, we are organising members events with Mike Russell, Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister, in March 2018 in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Details on both events will follow in due course.

If you have any comments or questions about this Brexit briefing or suggestions for other topics, please get in touch with me at svea.miesch@scotlandis.com.

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