So it looks like what are perhaps the most important negotiations in this country's history will start on the 19th June, just 11 days after the snap General Election. The effects of the GE purdah mean that contact between the two sides is currently low, hence the extra 11 days needed for preparation following the election result. This is also the reason why the news at this point in time is basically just total speculation coming from both sides in isolation. On June 19th this all changes and the official talks begin. On this day, Michel Barnier will hold the opening discussions with whoever the British Brexit negotiator will be following the election. They will have around 15 months to thrash out the issues, with the matters of the divorce bill, the rights of EU citizens and the Irish border expected to be sorted by the end of this year. The talks are to be separated into 4-week rounds focusing on a particular issue, with week one being for preparation, week two for the disclosure of documents by both sides, before two weeks of discussions followed by reporting of progress at the end of each round.
In the meantime, we have estimates for the divorce bill now ranging from £5bn to £100bn+, so it absolutely anyone's guess what the final sum is, even though the matter of transfers between both sides will likely extend for years. David Davis' rhetoric that we will just walk out of the room if the bill is not to our liking is frankly, ridiculous. As Richard North explains, a complete walk-away no-deal option in the early stages of talks would be comparable to the total cessation of formal relations between nations that would only happen otherwise if a war broke out, and is thus incredibly unlikely and totally undesirable. Lines like this from our chief negotiator are looking increasingly stupid and unhelpful, particularly when the other side is making efforts to start approaching this thing seriously and with an open-mind.
On the report from the CEBR, which finds that exiting the single market for services could cost the country up to £36bn per year, it certainly won't sit well for both the Tories and Labour, who have both seemingly ruled out single-market membership completely. Now of course, forecasts like this are only as good as their assumptions and both parties hope to secure a replacement trade deal, but the report looks only at the frankly incomplete services aspect of the single market and does not sit well alongside the idea that "no deal is better than a bad one" - a line which unsurprisingly appears in the Conservative manifesto and is completely unsupportable from anything but a negotiating tactic viewpoint. Let's hope that our team take the negotiations and the matter of this county's future a little more seriously from June 19th, because I doubt there will be many secrets after that.