Put tiger in tank of Brexit talks, says Johnson after EU setback
Barnier stresses deadlock over divorce bill
Boris Johnson has said it is time to “put a tiger in the tank” of Brexit negotiations, after Brussels’ chief negotiator quashed hopes of trade talks beginning next week.
In a significant setback for Theresa May, Michel Barnier said 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 in Brussels on October 19.
Brexit secretary David Davis made it clear that the UK will press the other EU leaders to broaden Mr Barnier’s remit, allowing him to begin exploring the nature of a transition to the future UK/EU relationship before finalising details of the withdrawal agreement.
And the foreign secretary said it was time for the EU to show greater urgency in the process which is due to lead to Britain’s departure from the bloc in March 2019.
Mr Johnson told a London press conference that Britain wanted to “get on with it to the next phase”, adding: “We are looking for some urgency from our friends and partners and it’s time, I think, to put a bit of a tiger in the tank and get this thing done.”
Mr Barnier said no great steps forward had been made in four days of divorce negotiations this week.
At a press conference with Mr Davis in Brussels, he revealed that the size of the UK’s Brexit bill had not even been the subject of negotiations, after Britain refused to put a figure on the amount it was prepared to pay.
“On this issue, we have reached a state of deadlock which is very disturbing for thousands of project promoters in Europe and it’s disturbing also for taxpayers,” said Mr Barnier.
And he added: “On this basis I am not able in the current circumstances to propose next week to the European Council that we should start discussions on the future relationship.”
His recommendation makes 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.
The pound tumbled on the news, slumping 0.6% against the dollar to 1.31. Sterling also dropped 0.6% against the euro to 1.10 euro.
But Mr Davis urged EU leaders to change Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate at next week’s summit to allow both sides to “talk about the future”.
“I hope the leaders of the 27 will provide Michel with the means to explore ways forward with us on that and build on the spirit of co-operation we now have,” said the Brexit secretary.
And a Downing Street spokesman said: “We’ve been clear that we want to move on to discussions on the implementation period and our future relationship.
“We hope the EU27 now give Michel Barnier the means to open up discussions to allow the momentum we’ve established to continue.”
Mr Barnier held out the prospect of “decisive” progress in the Brexit talks by the time of the European Council summit scheduled for December 14-15.
But he insisted the EU would not make “concessions” on its key priorities of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit, the status of the Irish border and the UK’s “divorce bill”.
And he insisted he did not want to abandon his plan of waiting until “sufficient progress” is made on divorce issues before moving on to the MP Anna Soubry has said Tory MPs who favour a hard Brexit should “shut up” and “get behind the prime minister”.
Speaking before a conference yesterday, the MP for Broxtowe said hardBrexiteers “need to stop banging on” because people “didn’t vote” for a hard Brexit.
The pro-remainer admitted that she is now “not an opposer of Brexit” despite going “against her conscience” when she voted to trigger Article 50.
Addressing a crowd of Nottingham Trent University students, future trade relationship. “To make a success of the negotiations we have got to do things in the right order,” said Mr Barnier.
“That is a condition of success. If we mix everything up, there are risks.”
Speaking during a visit to the North West, Mrs May said: “There has actually been good progress made in these talks and Michel Barnier himself has recognised that over the coming weeks we will be able to make constructive progress as well.” Labour said the deadlock “increases the chances that Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal”.
Hard Brexiteers told ‘shut up and back PM’
Ms Soubry described Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “more of a Brexiteer than anyone in our party” and urged the crowd not to vote Labour if they wanted to remain in the EU.
Speaking as a panel member at a conference titled Crisis In The Liberal World Order: What Future For The West?, Ms Soubry said: “What the people clearly didn’t give the Government a mandate for is a hard Brexit.”
In a message to hard-Brexiteers, she said: “They need to stop banging on and what they need to do is shut up and get on with it.
“They need to shut up, get behind the prime minister... and let’s get a deal.
“I am not an opposer of Brexit – I have voted to trigger Article 50.”
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson
MP Anna Soubry