UK seeks brexit momentum with EU

LONDON • The UK is seeking to regain momentum in so-far sluggish Brexit negotiations by publishing this week the first outline of its positions as two key ministers issued a joint declaration on the post-European Union (EU) transition period, ending their disagreement over the issue.

The government plans to issue the first of three discussion papers ahead of the next round of negotiations, scheduled to start on Aug 28 in Brussels, Brexit secretary David Davis’ (picture) office said in a statement yesterday.

The documents — setting  out proposals for Northern Ireland and the border with Ireland, continuity on the availability of goods and confidentiality, and access to official documents after Brexit — will seek  to prove the UK is ready for talks to advance to the next stage, according to the statement.

Britain is struggling with the negotiations, and the pace has sparked concerns a March 2019 exit deadline will arrive without a deal being reached. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned EU ambassadors last month that the lack of progress meant talks on the future relationship with the UK, including a free-trade agreement, may not be possible by the next leader’s summit in October, and may have to extended.

“I’ve launched this process because with time of the essence, we need to get on with negotia- ting the bigger issues around our future partnership to ensure we get a deal that delivers a strong UK and a strong EU,” Davis said.

In a further sign the Conservatives are seeking to show a united front, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Trade Secretary Liam Fox made a joint statement in which they said a transition period following Brexit isn’t a way  for Britain to stay in the EU “through the back door”.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the two Cabinet members said that “we are both clear” that during the period Britain would be outside the single market and the customs union “and will be a ‘third country’ not party to EU treaties”.

The ministers were seen being on opposing sides on Brexit, with Hammond championing a business-friendly approach where Britain gradually leaves the EU, while Fox sought as short a transition as possible and for Britain to have the freedom to imme- diately negotiate trade deals.

While Britain seeks to demonstrate to voters and the EU that it has a coherent position, there are still disagreements between the UK and EU over how to approach negotiating a future trade deal. Barnier has maintained that negotiators must make progress on the rights of EU and British citizens, the border with Ireland and Britain’s exit payment before discussing a deal. — Bloomberg