UK is living in dreamland if it thinks it will get early trade deal, says EU
BRITAIN’S Brexit Secretary David Davis has been told by EU negotiators to ‘dream on’ if he thinks he can strike a trade deal with Brussels before agreeing to fork out billions of euro for the divorce.
With tensions escalating between Mr Davis and the EU ahead of the third round of talks tomorrow, the negotiators last night also warned Mr Davis to tone down his bellicose language or risk derailing the entire process.
Responding to a bullish demand from Mr Davis for the UK’s future trading relationship to be put on the table now, a senior source close to the Brussels negotiations told The
EU wants Britain to pay €75bn
Mail on Sunday this weekend: ‘David Davis can dream on if he thinks EU negotiators will be bullied into discussing the outlines of a future relationship before divorce arrangements are in place.’
The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is refusing to accede to Mr Davis’s demand until agreement has been reached on the divorce bill – the EU wants Britain to pay up to €75bn as the price for leaving – the border arrangements in Northern Ireland and the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens in the UK.
Mr Barnier will announce in October whether ‘sufficient progress’ has been made on the issues to allow trade talks to start. But with both sides appearing to be digging in and the clock ticking towards the exit in March 2019, EU sources now put the chances of striking a deal with Britain at ‘not much better than 50-50’.
Mr Barnier’s team have been unimpressed by the batch of Brexit position papers released by the UK over the past fortnight that set out their goals for the negotiations, believing that their main purpose is to attempt to resolve bitter Cabinet splits over ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit.
Mr Davis’s aides counter by saying Mr Barnier needs to be ‘more flexible’ in his approach and demonstrate more ‘imagination’ in order to drive the talks forward. His aides also insist that the position papers, which set out how the UK would leave the Customs Union after a two-to-three-year transition period, keep an invisible border with Northern Ireland and leave the ‘direct’ jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, have ‘demonstrated the UK’s pragmatic approach to negotiations’.
The round of negotiations being opened by Mr Davis and Mr Barnier tomorrow will last until Thursday. A UK Government source said yesterday: ‘This round of negotiations will act as a stepping stone to more substantial talks in September.
‘Both sides must be flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to solving areas where we disagree. As the EU itself has said, the clock is ticking so neither side should drag its feet.’ But an EU source said: ‘We are adamant that we will stick to the sequencing timetable which has already been agreed with David Davis.’
Meanwhile, pro-EU campaigners last night accused UK ministers of a ‘shameful attempt’ to ‘erase history’ by demanding that all government Brexit documents are slapped with a ban on publication.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, a supporter of ‘soft’ Brexit pressure group Open Britain, said buried in the UK’s position paper on confidentiality it made clear that officials would be restricted from disclosing information about the process.
He said: ‘After years of complaining about the EU’s lack of transparency, this smells like a shameful attempt by ministers to dodge scrutiny.’
‘Both sides must be flexible’