Saturday

20th Aug 2022

UK pleads for Brexit transition period, EU unlikely to be moved

UK finance minister Philip Hammond urged the EU on Wednesday (11 October) to swiftly start discussions on a Brexit transition period, just as EU leaders are getting ready to confirm that not enough progress has been made in talks to move onto the next phase of negotiations.

"It is self-evident to me that a transitional arrangement is a wasting asset. It has a value today. It will still have a very high value at Christmas, early in the new year. But as we move through 2018 its value to everybody will diminish significantly," Hammond told the Treasury Committee of the UK parliament in Westminster.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The UK was hoping that talks advance enough so that "sufficient progress" is reached on key issues by next week's EU summit. Talks can then begin on trade and future relations.

"October was pretty optimistic to start with, we have not arrived to this intermediate stage yet," said one EU official on condition of anonymity.

Last month, UK prime minister Theresa May proposed "around" a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

That requires a change in the negotiating mandate of the EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, which could be done by EU leaders.

However, it is unlikely that this will happen.

"I would be surprised if there is enough ground for us to change the mandate," the official added.

Barnier will update EU ambassadors on Friday, and EU affairs ministers on Tuesday.

The EU official said Barnier will brief the member states on the state of play of the talks, but added that he will not propose a change to his mandate.

The official did not want to speculate on whether Barnier would urge member states to give encouraging signs to the UK on the prospect of a transition period.

Hammond urged the EU to change the sequencing on the negotiations.

EU negotiators say the timeline for the talks is based on the Article 50 of the EU treaty, dealing with exits from the bloc, but sequencing has always been a thorn in the UK's side.

"The proposal that we have put to the EU calls for a rapid response, and it means breaking out of the structure of the negotiation that has been imposed by the European Commission," Hammond said on Wednesday.

He also said talks on the future relationship should start as soon as possible.

"Astonishingly, the most important question, which is what is our long-term relationship with the European Union going to look like, has not yet even begun to be discussed ... We have made the running in this and we really need our European Union partners to engage. It's quite a small ask really," he told MPs.

"Let's sit down around a table and have a chat. That's all we are saying," he added.

Next week, EU leaders will discuss the progress in Brexit talks, but will not give the green light for trade talks.

That might happen at December's EU summit, but European Council chief Donald Tusk warned on Tuesday that the EU and the UK will have to discuss where talks are headed - if sufficient progress has still not been reached on key issues by the December.

Tusk added, however, that the EU is not preparing for a scenario where the UK leaves without a deal - crashing out of the bloc in 2019.

Hammond on Wednesday confirmed that the UK is preparing for such a no-deal scenario, but said he would not commit funds to prepare for now.

"I am clear that we have to be prepared for a no-deal scenario unless and until we have clear evidence that that is not where we will end up. What I am not proposing to do is to allocate funds to departments in advance of the need to spend," he said.

The fifth round of talks ends on Thursday among EU and UK negotiators. No breakthrough is expected.

Brexit talks enter pre-summit round

Brexit talks resume on Monday, but too little progress on issues such as citizens' rights, mean EU leaders unlikely to launch trade negotiations this month.

Brexit 'deadlock' prevents move to trade negotiations

EU negotiator Barnier also said after the latest round of Brexit talks that with political will, progress can be achieved in the next two months - in time for the December EU summit to give the green light.

Opinion

Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us