‘EU lead­ers could pre­pare for post-Brexit trade dis­cus­sions’

Evening Express (City Final) - - UK & Abroad -

THE Euro­pean Union could be­gin pre­par­ing for post-Brexit trade ne­go­ti­a­tions while re­fus­ing to dis­cuss with Bri­tain the na­ture of the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

A doc­u­ment seen by re­porters in Brus­sels sug­gests EU lead­ers and chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier could be­gin “in­ter­nal prepara­tory dis­cus­sions” on a fu­ture trade re­la­tion­ship and a tran­si­tion deal in a move which could of­fer Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May hope for talks.

Draft con­clu­sions for next week’s Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit of EU lead­ers, which are sub­ject to change, calls for work to con­tinue to achieve “suf­fi­cient progress” on with­drawal is­sues of a fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment, the Ir­ish bor­der and ci­ti­zens’ rights, to un­lock the sec­ond stage of talks to fo­cus on trade.

But it warns that Bri­tain has not made a firm com­mit­ment on what Brus­sels sees as its fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions, echo­ing Mr Barnier’s con­cerns that a “dis­turb­ing” dead­lock over the size of Bri­tain’s exit bill means he can­not rec­om­mend mov­ing on from di­vorce talks to dis­cus­sions about fu­ture trade re­la­tions when lead­ers of the 27 re­main­ing EU states meet on Oc­to­ber 19.

His rec­om­men­da­tion made it all but cer­tain that trade talks will be de­layed at least un­til the end of the year, and will heighten pres­sure on the UK Gov­ern­ment to make prepa­ra­tions for a pos­si­ble “no-deal” Brexit.

But the draft pa­per of­fered signs of hope that Mr Barnier and EU states could at least be­gin ex­plor­ing trade and tran­si­tion ar­range­ments

Mean­while, an aide to the Trea­sury’s min­is­te­rial team dis­missed calls by Tory grandee Lord Law­son for Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond to be sacked.

For­mer chan­cel­lor Lord Law­son ac­cused Mr Ham­mond of un­der­min­ing Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, claim­ing that his re­fusal to re­lease money now for prepa­ra­tions for a no-deal Brexit was “very close to sab­o­tage”.

But Chris Philp said: “That’s non­sense. Nigel Law­son was a great chan­cel­lor in the 1980s, but that was 30 or 40 years ago, and he cer­tainly doesn’t speak for the mod­ern Par­lia­men­tary Con­ser­va­tive Party.”

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