Hard Brexit fears grow as talks hit ‘dis­turb­ing’ im­passe

Po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty in UK and grow­ing im­pa­tience of EU heighten fears in Dublin Brus­sels in­sid­ers say the ne­go­ti­at­ing timetable is now get­ting very tight

The Irish Times - - Front Page - PAT LEAHY and PATRICK SMYTH

Fears are grow­ing in the Gov­ern­ment that po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty in Lon­don and grow­ing im­pa­tience in the EU are to­gether in­creas­ing the prospect of a very hard Brexit. How­ever, Dublin be­lieves that a break­through be­fore Christ­mas is still pos­si­ble.

The lat­est round of talks be­tween the UK and the EU ne­go­ti­at­ing teams fin­ished in Brus­sels yes­ter­day with no sign of the progress hoped for by the Bri­tish after Theresa May’s Florence speech.

Next week’s EU sum­mit will hear EU lead ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier warn of a “dis­turb­ing” im­passe in dis­cus­sions on the UK’s Brexit bill.

“I am not ready to pro­pose to the Euro­pean Coun­cil to open ne­go­ti­a­tions on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship,” he told a press con­fer­ence in Brus­sels yes­ter­day after the con­clu­sion of the talks.

Sources close to the talks said there was lit­tle Bri­tish en­gage­ment this week as the UK had been wrong­footed by the EU’s tepid re­sponse to Ms May’s speech in Florence.

Ms May’s po­lit­i­cal weak­ness has now be­come a fac­tor in the talks, with the EU side aware that the fi­nal deal is likely to be made with her suc­ces­sor.

It had been hoped that the Oc­to­ber sum­mit would de­cide that “suf­fi­cient progress” had been made on the sepa­ra­tion agree­ment, al­low­ing talks on the fu­ture trad­ing re­la­tion­ship to com­mence. The EU has re­fused Bri­tish re­quests to talk about the fu­ture trad­ing re­la­tion­ship un­til it is happy that there has been progress on Ir­ish is­sues, the rights of EU cit­i­zens in the UK and the “di­vorce bill” the UK will pay.

Now the “suf­fi­cient progress” test will be post­poned to De­cem­ber, although the snail’s pace of talks and the sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences to be over­come sug­gest it may not even be pos­si­ble then.

Brus­sels in­sid­ers say the ne­go­ti­at­ing timetable is now get­ting very tight. Mr Barnier has spo­ken of the need to com­plete dis­cus­sions by Oc­to­ber next to al­low rat­i­fi­ca­tion by na­tional par­lia­ments ahead of the UK’s de­par­ture from the union in March 2019.

Cau­tiously op­ti­mistic

Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment sources are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that the EU sum­mit in De­cem­ber will de­cide that “suf­fi­cient progress” has been made to al­low the trade talks to be­gin. This phase will be cru­cial for Ire­land, as the type of bor­der – in­clud­ing the ques­tions of cus­toms checks – will not be­come clear un­til the fu­ture trade re­la­tion­ship be­tween the EU and the UK is set­tled.

How­ever, there are grow­ing fears in Dublin that ris­ing im­pa­tience with the Bri­tish in Brus­sels – and in Paris and Ber­lin – might em­bolden Tory min­is­ters and MPs in Lon­don who favour a hard Brexit.

When the EU-27 lead­ers meet next week to review the talks there will be some pres­sure to ex­plore ways of un­block­ing the process by pro­vid­ing a road map to those sec­ond-phase dis­cus­sions, specif­i­cally by ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of talks on the UK’s tran­si­tion from the union.There is a grow­ing sense in Brus­sels that tran­si­tion dis­cus­sions may be key to un­block­ing some of the im­passes in the di­vorce talks.

‘‘ Tran­si­tion dis­cus­sions may be key to un­block­ing some of the im­passes

Taoiseach’s state­ment

In a state­ment last night, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said there has been “some progress this week, but it is limited”. He said the fo­cus now “must be on mak­ing enough progress... so that talks on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship can be­gin”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.