Put tiger in tank of Brexit talks, says John­son af­ter EU set­back

Pol­i­tics: Barnier stresses dead­lock over di­vorce bill

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW WOOD­COCK

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

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