EU’s Barnier eyes move by December
Britain and the EU are stuck in a “disturbing” deadlock over the Brexit divorce bill, though a breakthrough remains possible in the next two months, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Thursday.
In a gesture to London, EU leaders are set at a summit next week to order the launch of preparatory work on a future trade deal, even though they will not approve moving on to full trade talks until December.
But the stalemate will stoke fears swirling in London and Brussels of a breakdown in talks that could see Britain leaving the European Union in March 2019 without an agreement to soften the blow.
After a fifth round of talks with Britain’s David Davis, Barnier said he “cannot recommend” to EU leaders at the Oct. 19-20 summit that negotiations move on from divorce issues to talks on a post-Brexit relationship. The Frenchman reserved his most cutting comments for the issue of financial commitments, saying Britain had still not spelled out what Prime Minister Theresa May promised in a key speech in Florence, Italy, last month.
“We are at a deadlock on this question which is extremely disturbing,” Barnier said at a press conference with Davis at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.
But Barnier added: “I remain convinced that with political will, decisive breakthroughs are within reach in the coming two months.”
‘Tiger in the tank’
The leaders of the 27 other EU countries have demanded there be “sufficient progress” on the Brexit bill, the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and on Northern Ireland before moving on to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal.
Germany has led opposition to having even informal talks on trade or on a two-year trade transition