EU Top Negotiator Warns of Possible Delay in Brexit TalksAugust 25, 2017 in Uncategorized
Late last month, the European Union’s (EU) top negotiator warned that talks between Britain and the EU on their future relationship are now less likely to begin in October, with EU officials disclosing that this is due to a lack of progress on Brexit divorce issues so far.
The EU’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors from the 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Britain leaves in March 2019 on the outcome of the July round of the monthly divorce talks with London. According to one EU official involved in the Brexit talks, “he said the likelihood of starting the future relationship talks in October appeared to be decreasing.”
Barnier had initially hoped that sufficient progress on the key divorce issues, which includes a financial settlement, citizens rights and a solution for a non-physical border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, could be made by October. This would effectively allow EU leaders to give their consent to begin talks with London on the main aspects of the relationship after Brexit – a discussion that Britain is keen to begin as soon as possible to provide more clarity to businesses. However with no progress on the financial settlement, with the exception of Britain’s general admission that it would owe the EU an unspecified amount, and little to no real progress on other issues, the odds of a future trade relationship discussion beginning in two months are rapidly declining.
EU officials have noted that progress was difficult not because Britain had unacceptable demands, but that it had no position at all on many issues. According to a second EU official, “Barnier expressed concerns that sufficient progress in October looked difficult now. Mainly because Britain has no position on finances, but also because they don’t have positions on other issues as well,” adding “the more they drag on, the less time is left for second phase and special relationship they want.”
The EU has roughly estimated that Britain may owe it around 60 billion euros after it leaves in various legal commitments that London has made as a member to the bloc. However talks are to focus on the methodology of calculation rather than the sum itself. According to a third EU diplomat, “there has still been no kick-off on money, Britain still refuses to accept anything – either the methodology, or the sum. This blocs everything else, there wont be any real progress over the next two months, clearly that wont create grounds for reopening phase two on trade,” adding “on citizens’ acquired rights, it’s a mixed picture. We have a list of things we agree on, disagree on and are some way in between. But that at least allows us to negotiate.” Diplomats have also disclosed that in regards to Ireland, talks have not moved beyond restating positions that have already been presented in public, with a fourth official disclosing that “they have actually not discussed the Irish border in any detail, there were no technical talks at all.”
The next round of talks has been scheduled for late August.