Brexit talks re­sume with lit­tle hope of break­through

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

BRUS­SELS – Bri­tain and the Euro­pean Union re­sumed Brexit talks yes­ter­day with lit­tle hope of a break­through and fears that the fragility of Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment threat­ens fur­ther progress be­fore the end of the year.

The sixth round of ne­go­ti­a­tions is the first since EU lead­ers warned May at an Oc­to­ber 20 sum­mit that Bri­tain had made in­suf­fi­cient progress to move on from di­vorce is­sues to dis­cus­sions of a fu­ture trade deal.

They said they planned to start in­ter­nal prepa­ra­tions soon with the aim of kick­ing off trade talks with Bri­tain in De­cem­ber, but of­fi­cials warned that that dead­line now seems in­creas­ingly shaky.

“More progress needed on three key topics,” EU ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier said on Twit­ter on the eve of the talks, along with a graphic show­ing the terms the re­main­ing 27 EU states ex­pect Bri­tain to agree to.

This week’s talks fea­ture a stripped down two-day sched­ule, with French­man Barnier and his Bri­tish coun­ter­part David Davis only set to meet this morn­ing, sources said.

The EU de­mands progress on three key di­vorce is­sues — Bri­tain’s exit bill to meet its com­mit­ments to the EU bud­get, the fate of the bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land and the rights of EU cit­i­zens in Bri­tain.

The Bri­tish premier’s gov­ern­ment, how­ever, looks in­creas­ingly dis­tracted with the res­ig­na­tion of its aid min­is­ter over meet­ings in Is­rael on Wed­nes­day adding to the sense of chaos since May’s dis­as­trous show­ing in elec­tions ear­lier this year.

“I see a strong will­ing­ness to come to a deal. I am con­fi­dent that ev­ery­body un­der­stands what has to be done on both sides,” an EU diplo­mat told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“The ques­tion is do they have the strength? And will the moves be made in time by the end of Novem­ber, first week of De­cem­ber?”

Bri­tain must show progress by then if it wants the bloc to move to talks on a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship and a post-Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod at the next sum­mit on De­cem­ber 14, Euro­pean sources said.

Fail­ure to do so would likely push back the move to Fe­bru­ary or even March, leav­ing only around six months to reach a deal by Oc­to­ber 2018, the time­line Barnier has set in or­der for the with­drawal agree­ment to be rat­i­fied by Brexit day in March 2019.

The EU says it wants Bri­tain to pro­vide writ­ten guar­an­tees of a pledge to hon­our its fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments that May made in a speech in the Ital­ian city of Florence in Septem­ber.

“We don’t need speeches, we need com­mit­ments,” the diplo­mat said.

Euro­pean Par­lia­ment chief An­to­nio Ta­jani — whose in­sti­tu­tion will have the fi­nal vote on any Brexit deal — last month set the bill at around €50bn to €60bn, and said that the €20bn pro­posed by Lon­don was “peanuts”.

The par­lia­ment also re­jected fresh pro­pos­als by Bri­tain this week on pro­tect­ing the rights of the three mil­lion EU na­tion­als liv­ing in Bri­tain af­ter Brexit.

“We don’t recog­nise re­ports sug­gest­ing that a deal on cit­i­zens’ rights is al­most fi­nalised. There are still ma­jor is­sues that have to be re­solved,” said the par­lia­ment’s Brexit steer­ing group, chaired by for­mer Bel­gian premier Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt.

EU am­bas­sadors on Wed­nes­day had their first in­ter­nal “brain­storm­ing” ses­sion look­ing at a work­ing pa­per on fu­ture re­la­tions and a tran­si­tion, ex­pected to last two years, sources said.

“It was very the­o­ret­i­cal be­cause we haven’t dealt with phase one yet,” a diplo­matic source added. “There was a recog­ni­tion of the lim­its of any in­ter­nal prepa­ra­tion ex­er­cise un­til we have a clearer idea of what fu­ture re­la­tion­ship Lon­don wants.”

Mean­while, Euro­pean Union fi­nance min­is­ters wran­gled on Mon­day over dif­fer­ences in plans to re­form the euro com­mon cur­rency in the wake of the shock Brexit vote in 2016.

The min­is­ters were lay­ing the ground­work for a lead­ers’ sum­mit on De­cem­ber 15 that will dis­cuss pro­pos­als by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

The 27 EU min­is­ters — mi­nus Bri­tain — dis­cussed three key is­sues that go to the heart of mak­ing the euro more po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally uni­fied, so it is more re­silient against fu­ture crises.

They ze­roed in on cre­at­ing a euro­zone rainy day fund, sim­pli­fy­ing the EU’s bud­getary dis­ci­pline rules and fi­nally com­plet­ing a “bank­ing union” that re­moves re­stric­tions be­tween lenders across the bloc.

But Bri­tain was left out in the cold as it is set to leave the EU in 2019 be­fore most of the planned re­forms will take ef­fect.

One of the most com­plex chal­lenges will be sim­pli­fy­ing rules for na­tional bud­gets, which euro­zone gov­ern­ments have to keep un­der tight con­trol to es­cape sanc­tions from Brus­sels.— News24.

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