At last, EU chiefs give green light for talks on post-Brexit trade deal

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Mario Led­with Brus­sels Cor­re­spon­dent

EU lead­ers will give the green light next week for Brexit talks about a trade deal with the UK, it emerged last night.

The break­through fol­lows pleas by Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis and EU chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier.

They want Euro­pean po­lit­i­cal chiefs to end the ‘dis­turb­ing’ stale­mate in Brexit talks by loos­en­ing their rigid rules.

In a boost to Bri­tain, the bloc’s lead­ers will fi­nally start draw­ing up plans for a fu­ture trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain.

Theresa May has re­peat­edly said that the UK will re­frain from fi­nal­is­ing the ‘di­vorce bill’ un­less Brus­sels opens up talks.

A leaked doc­u­ment last night re­vealed that the EU is fi­nally will­ing to make the move at a Euro­pean Coun­cil sum­mit next week. The doc­u­ment – draft con­clu­sions for next week’s sum­mit com­posed by Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk – states that of­fi­cials will al­low Mr Barnier and his team to start ‘in­ter­nal prepara­tory dis­cus­sions’ on a post-Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod and trad­ing re­la­tion­ship.

While fall­ing short of the full trade talks with Bri­tain that Down­ing Street pre­vi­ously hoped would be opened, the de­vel­op­ment will be seen as a break­through in Lon­don.

Mr Davis and Mr Barnier yes­ter­day sep­a­rately called for EU lead­ers to ac­cept con­ces­sions made by the Prime Min­is­ter and show lee­way in or­der for trade talks to be­gin. After the lat­est round of Brexit talks ended frus­trat­ingly for both sides, Mr Davis said chang­ing the scope of talks was now ‘in the in­ter­ests of Europe and the UK’.

Un­usu­ally, his call was echoed by his EU coun­ter­part, who be­moaned the state of ‘dead­lock’ in what Bri­tish of­fi­cials de­scribed as ‘an el­e­gant cry for help’.

In a mes­sage aimed at Ger­many and France, Mr Barnier said that a break­through is ‘within our grasp’ if the EU’s lead­ing pow­ers show the ‘po­lit­i­cal will’.

But he also crit­i­cised the Gov­ern­ment’s ‘very dis­turb­ing’ re­fusal to pay a £90bil­lion di­vorce bill. Both Ber­lin and Paris have in­sisted that Mrs May must of­fer more rigid guar­an­tees that the UK will pay off a share of the EU’s debt as part of its di­vorce bill be­fore dis­cussing a fu­ture deal.

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