In this report, the Committee considers the current state of the negotiations, the intervening period before Brexit and the work to date on plans for Phase 2. The Committee says that is difficult to see how a Brexit deal covering everything can be negotiated in the time that remains and the Government should consider whether a limited extension to the Article 50 period is needed.
Citizens' rights, the Northern Ireland border, a wide range of separation issues and the shape of the UK's future economic relationship with the EU will dominate the months of negotiation between now and October 2018, the deadline set by the UK and the EU.
There has been little progress made on solving the problem of how to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with no checks and no infrastructure, if the UK leaves the Customs Union and the Single Market.
The Committee supports the Government's rejection of the European Commission's interpretation of its fall-back position of "full alignment" in the February draft Withdrawal Agreement. However, the UK Government has not explained what full alignment means and the report sets out a number of questions for ministers on this issue. As the government is unhappy with sections of the draft withdrawal agreement it should produce its own draft legal text.
The Government has proposed that EU citizens that arrive in the UK will have different rights to those that are living in the UK before the transition/implementation period. The Committee states that this is inconsistent with full acceptance of the acquis which is fundamental to the transition/implementation period.
If substantial aspects of the Future Partnership remain to be agreed in October 2018, the Government should seek a limited extension to the Article 50 time to ensure that an agreement on the Future EU-UK Partnership is sufficiently detailed and comprehensive. The Committee also recommends that the proposed transition/implementation period should be capable of being extended if this proves necessary.
The Chair of the Committee, Hilary Benn MP, said:
"We are now at a critical stage in the negotiations, with just seven months left to reach agreement on a whole host of highly complex issues. While the Committee welcomes the progress that has been made in some areas, the Government faces a huge task when the Phase 2 talks actually begin.
The Government must now come forward with credible, detailed proposals as to how it can operate a 'frictionless border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because at the moment, the Committee is not persuaded that this can be done at the same time as the UK is leaving the single market and the customs union. We know of no international border, other than the internal borders of the EU, that operates without checks and physical infrastructure. This is deeply concerning.
In the past few days, David Davis has said he can 'live with' a transition period of under two years if it helps to secure an early deal. But even this time could prove to be too short to conclude a comprehensive agreement. Given the modelling we have seen, a 'no deal' scenario is a significant danger to the UK.
The Committee has been examining different types of trade and partnership agreements which the EU has entered into with third countries and we expect to present this work soon.
Achieving agreement on how to handle Brexit is far from easy as the debates in the Select Committee and in Parliament demonstrate. But in the end Parliament will determine what happens."