Brexit talks get to the ‘heart of the mat­ter’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Britain and the EU vowed to get to the “heart of the mat­ter” as they launched fresh Brexit talks in Brus­sels yes­ter­day, even as bit­ter in­fight­ing gripped the Bri­tish govern­ment. Brexit min­is­ter David Davis met EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier for a sec­ond round of talks ahead of Britain’s his­toric with­drawal from the bloc, sched­uled for March 2019. But in Lon­don there was fresh tur­moil as weak­ened Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May pre­pared to urge her war­ring min­is­ters to end dam­ag­ing leaks against each other over Brexit. “Now it’s time to get down to work and make this a suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion,” Davis told re­porters as Barnier wel­comed him to the head­quar­ters of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

Dur­ing four days of talks the two sides hope to make progress on key is­sues sur­round­ing Britain’s with­drawal, in­clud­ing cit­i­zens’ rights and its exit bill, so that ne­go­ti­a­tions can move on to dis­cuss a fu­ture trade deal later this year. “For us it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant we now make good progress, that we ne­go­ti­ate through this and iden­tify the dif­fer­ences so we can deal with them and iden­tify the sim­i­lar­i­ties so that we can re­in­force them,” added Davis.

Barnier, who has re­peat­edly called on Britain to set out a full di­vorce strat­egy, said they needed to “ex­am­ine and com­pare our re­spec­tive po­si­tions in or­der to make good progress.”“We’ll now delve into the heart of the mat­ter,” Barnier, a for­mer French for­eign min­is­ter and Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner, told re­porters.

Empty handed Brits

Davis how­ever stayed only a few hours be­fore re­turn­ing to Britain for par­lia­men­tary busi­ness, of­fi­cials said. He will come back to Brus­sels on Thurs­day for more talks with Barnier and a news con­fer­ence. Pho­tographs of the brief meet­ing showed grim-faced EU ne­go­tia­tors with large sheaves of pa­per across a ta­ble from a grin­ning, empty handed Bri­tish team.

The talks are the first full round of ne­go­ti­a­tions that for­mally be­gan last month with a one-day ses­sion to agree on a timetable. The EU has demon­strated in­creas­ing con­fi­dence in re­cent weeks, ac­cus­ing Britain of dither­ing over whether it wants a “hard” or “soft” Brexit more than a year af­ter the shock ref­er­en­dum that pro­pelled May to power. But May’s mi­nor­ity govern­ment re­mains frag­ile one month af­ter the snap June 8 elec­tion in which her Con­ser­va­tive Party lost its ma­jor­ity, leav­ing the EU won­der­ing whether she can ac­tu­ally for­mu­late a co­her­ent Brexit pol­icy.

Over the week­end Bri­tish news­pa­pers were full of re­ports of a civil war within her cab­i­net, with fi­nance min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond in par­tic­u­lar be­ing tar­geted over al­le­ga­tions he was try­ing to de­rail Brexit. May her­self was set to call them to or­der to­day, her spokesman said. “Cab­i­net must be able to hold dis­cus­sions of govern­ment pol­icy in pri­vate and the Prime Min­is­ter will be re­mind­ing her col­leagues of that at the Cab­i­net meet­ing to­mor­row,” the spokesman said. — AFP

— AP

BRUS­SELS: EU chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier, right, wel­comes Bri­tish Sec­re­tary of State David Davis for a meet­ing at the EU head­quar­ters.

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