EU: Brexit talks may take months to move on

Britain still hasn’t set out what it thinks the country owes the bloc when it leaves, says Barnier


LONDONEuropean Union (EU) chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (picture) said it could take months before the divorce talks can move on to trade, in a blow to Theresa May’s hopes for faster progress.

The fourth round of talks, while more positive in tone, failed to deliver the breakthrough that’s needed for negotiations to start on the trade deal that the UK desperately wants. Barnier said Britain still hasn’t set out what it thinks the country owes the bloc when it leaves and there’s still no agreement on the role of the European Court of Justice — one of the most contentious issues for both sides.

“It’s positive that Theresa May’s speech made it possible to unblock the situation to some extent and give a new dynamic,” Barnier told a news conference with Brexit Secretary David Davis in Brussels yesterday. “But we are far from the stage, and it will take weeks or maybe even months, where we will be able to say yes there has been sufficient progress on the principles for the orderly withdrawal.”

His comments all but dashed any remaining hope that May’s speech in Florence last week would encourage EU leaders at their October summit to agree that “sufficient progress” has been made on the divorce issues for discussions to turn to trade.

In the Tuscan capital, May said Britain would honour its financial commitments and pay into the EU budget for two years after leaving. She also asked for a two-year transition, during which the current trading conditions and rules would apply, in an apparent effort to tie the divorce bill to the transition.

She had a chance to make a personal appeal at a dinner yesterday night with fellow leaders in the Estonian capital of Tallinn

The clock is ticking as the UKissettodropoutofthe bloc in March 2019, with or without an agreement. The two-year transition deal depends on the goodwill of EU leaders to approve, and can’t be put in place unless there’s a separation agreement.

“The UK explained also that it is not in a position yet to identify its commitments,” Barnier said. “For the EU, the only way to reach sufficient progress is that all commitments undertaken at 28 are honoured at 28,” he said, in a reference to the number of EU members.

There will be one more round of negotiations before the summit. Adding to UK frustrations, the European Parliament will call next week for leaders not to move on to trade talks at the summit unless a major breakthrough is made next month, according to a draft resolution. — Bloomberg