Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Brexit talks to resume on Monday, a bank holiday

  • UK negotiator David Davis (l) will come to Brussels on Monday to meet his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier (r). (Photo: European Commission)

UK negotiators will return to Brussels next week on Monday (28 August) for another round of Brexit talks, a spokeswoman for the UK's Brexit ministry told EUobserver on Friday.

The starting date of next week's negotiating round was subject to debate between the UK and EU sides, because Monday is a bank holiday in the UK.

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As late as Friday 1PM, the EU could not yet say if there was a deal on whether the talks would begin on Monday or Tuesday.

“We will publish this once it is totally finalised,” a senior EU official told journalists at a briefing on Friday.

The issue of lead UK negotiator David Davis having to travel to Brussels on a bank holiday was the subject of various UK tabloid articles.

However, the senior EU official noted that if the five-day work week were to be reduced to four days, this would not present a big problem.

She said a "lack of time" is not the issue preventing the EU and UK from "advancing" in the negotiations. "So far it has been lack of substance."

“I think if you look at where we are, where we need to be, … it's a very big gap.”

The EU and UK are discussing the terms of the UK's departure from the bloc, but no big breakthroughs are expected next week. Instead August will be “the month for clarification”.

For example, the two sides need to settle the divorce bill, but the EU is still waiting for the UK to publish a counterproposal.

"We are not looking at a number now," the EU source said. "I would not like to get your hopes up that we will see a breakthrough on this issue."

"We would have preferred perhaps ... to start on getting an agreement on which parts of the financial obligations the UK is ready to accept," the official added.

"That is not on the agenda," she said, while noting that the EU is trying to "make as much progress as possible on the other items."

How to untangle the UK from its involvement in the European Investment Bank is one of those items that will be discussed.

One journalist suggested that the UK has deliberately not offered a position on the financial settlement.

“I hear what you say about delaying tactics, but I find it hard to imagine that this is really in their interest,” the official said.

“I think both the EU and UK have an interest in moving forward quickly in the negotiations.”

Northern Ireland

The situation of Northern Ireland will also be discussed, following the publication of a UK policy paper on that issue.

The EU official criticised how the paper combines the issue "of the peace process and the issue of the future EU-UK relationship".

She noted that the UK needs to accept “responsibility for the consequences that its decision to leave the EU will have ... on the island of Ireland”.

“It is very important that the peace process does not become a bargaining chip in these negotiations,” she said, adding later that she was not accusing the UK of doing that.

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