EU na­tions say Brexit talks likely to go be­yond sum­mit

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

LON­DON (AP) — Brexit di­vorce talks in Brus­sels are mak­ing such slow progress that three Euro­pean Union na­tions pre­dicted Mon­day the ne­go­ti­a­tions could spill be­yond this week’s cru­cial Brexit sum­mit.

Be­ly­ing the need for speed across the Chan­nel, Bri­tain trot­ted out a horse-drawn car­riage and a di­a­mond-en­crusted crown so the queen could read out the gov­ern­ment’s post-Brexit plans to Par­lia­ment.

In terms of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance, the painstak­ing para­graph-by-para­graph talks at the EU’s glass-and­steel Ber­lay­mont head­quar­ters se­ri­ously out­weighed the re­gal rit­ual in which an er­mine-draped monarch de­liv­ered a speech on the pri­or­i­ties of a Con­ser­va­tive Party gov­ern­ment that could be out of of­fice within weeks.

Bri­tain is sched­uled to leave the EU on Oct. 31, and an EU sum­mit on Thurs­day or Fri­day was long con­sid­ered one of the last pos­si­ble chances to ap­prove a di­vorce agree­ment to ac­com­mo­date that time­frame.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son in­sists the coun­try will leave at the end of the month with or with­out a deal, some­thing the queen re­it­er­ated Mon­day.

“My gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­ity has al­ways been to se­cure the United King­dom’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union on the 31st of Oc­to­ber,” the 93-year-old queen said in a speech to Par­lia­ment that was writ­ten for her by the gov­ern­ment.

It re­mains to be seen whether John­son will achieve that goal.

Ire­land, Fin­land and Spain all said the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions could well go be­yond this week and go right down to the wire at the end of the month.

Ir­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Si­mon Coveney said late Mon­day it was “too early to say if it is pos­si­ble to get a break­through this week or whether it will move into next week.”

Antti Rinne, prime min­is­ter of Fin­land, which cur­rently holds the EU pres­i­dency, said in Helsinki that he had given up hope for a quick break­through ahead of the Brexit sum­mit.

“There is no time in a prac­ti­cal way, and in le­gal base, to reach an agree­ment be­fore the meet­ing,” Rinne said. “We need to have more time.”

At the EU for­eign min­is­ters meet­ing in Luxembourg, Span­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Josep Bor­rell told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the Brexit talks were fol­low­ing a well-trav­eled path.

“You know, in Europe, we al­ways take de­ci­sions on the edge of the precipice, on the edge of the cliff,” he said. “Even when the last minute comes, then we stop the watch and say that we need tech­ni­cally more time to ful­fill all the re­quire­ments, all the last-minute re­quire­ments.”

Tech­ni­cal teams from Bri­tain and the EU worked through the week­end and Mon­day, but both sides said sig­nif­i­cant gaps re­mained be­tween their po­si­tions.

The dis­cus­sions cen­tered on fu­ture bor­der ar­range­ments be­tween EU mem­ber Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land, which is part of the U.K. John­son has put for­ward a com­plex pro­posal to elim­i­nate the need for cus­toms checks, but EU of­fi­cials say more work is needed.

An EU diplo­mat fa­mil­iar with the talks said there prob­a­bly needed to be a three-month ex­ten­sion for the Brexit dead­line to turn the Bri­tish pro­pos­als into a legally bind­ing deal.

“There are big prob­lems re­main­ing to counter smug­gling and fraud be­cause the Bri­tish out­lines are still that vague,” said the diplo­mat, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the talks are still in progress.

In Lon­don, the queen de­liv­ered a speech out­lin­ing an am­bi­tious — and crit­ics say un­de­liv­er­able — leg­isla­tive pro­gram for John­son’s gov­ern­ment.

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