Thursday

7th Jul 2022

EU rejects UK claim it's slowing Brexit talks

  • British PM Theresa May and EU Council chief Donald Tusk. May is not expected to bring new proposals to the European Council (Photo: Consilium)

The EU hit back at British suggestions that the bloc is slowing down Brexit talks, saying it is ready to unlock trade talks at soon as the UK delivers on the divorce issues.

"I am ready to accelerate the rhythm of the talks but it takes two to accelerate," the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters Tuesday in Luxembourg.

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

"We are ready to speed up negotiations, we don't have any intention of holding up any process," he added later.

His British counterpart, David Davis, meanwhile told MPs in Westminster that the EU is not ready to move in the negotiations because it wants to extract more money from the UK.

"[And] they are using time pressure to see if they can get more money out of us. Bluntly, that's what's going on. It is obvious to anybody..." Davis said.

The UK's blame game comes as EU leaders get ready for their summit later this week, where they will say that there has not been sufficient progress on key divorce issues achieved in Brexit talks so far, therefore negotiations on trade and future relations cannot yet start.

One of the major obstacles has been the UK's reluctance to spell out what previous financial commitments it is willing to pay.

EU leaders on Friday (20 October) will nevertheless make a gesture to British prime minister Theresa May.

They are expected to state their readiness to kick off internal preparations to be able to give the green light to trade and future talks at the December summit once sufficient progress has been achieved.

May has been arguing that she took a political risk with her Florence speech last month in which she said the UK would honour financial commitments entered by the UK as an EU member.

EU officials suggested the the EU-27 are already showing flexibility by starting internal talks on the next phase of negotiations.

"[The summit conclusions] give a very clear perspective on a way forward, and a readiness for the EU to engage already now on updating the negotiating mandate," a senior EU official said.

"Once sufficient progress is achieved we are not going to waste time, [we] almost immediately can start talks on issues in the second phase," the official added.

"We would not have that if it were not for May's Florence speech," the source said.

"Since Theresa May's Florence speech we have noted a new dynamic, what is needed. We have to do everything we can to maintain this dynamic and uphold it in particularly in the next two months," Barnier said Tuesday.

However there is no guarantee that talks will move into the second phase in December.

"We are not confident, we are hopeful," the EU official said on whether sufficient progress will be met in December.

At the European Council later this week Theresa May wants to take the floor to explain to fellow leaders the Brexit policy.

But the UK is not expected to make any new offers at the summit.

Something has to move

However, for things to gain momentum, the UK has to make specific proposals on the financial settlement.

"What we ask [from the UK] for is not to have a sum by December, but what commitments would be honoured and then we can move into the second phase," Ales Chmelar, Czech state secretary for EU affairs told reporters after a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg.

He added EU ministers understand the internal political pressure May is facing.

Finland's EU affairs minister Samuli Virtanen however sounded less understanding, saying May's difficult domestic position is making the "the situation on the negotiating process a bit difficult."

"The EU-27 is now more unanimous than [the] UK-1. That's one of the main problems here," he quipped.

"Some find it very difficult to see and understand what Britain really wants from these negotiations," he added.

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.

EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

The EU has launched internal preparations for phase two of Brexit talks, but a December breakthrough only possible if UK gives more detail on divorce issues first.

Analysis

May on mission impossible in Brussels

UK prime minister called on other EU leaders to "step forward together", but she has almost nothing to offer them except the threat of walking away.

Brexit talks to resume next week

UK and EU officials will get together next Thursday to try to achieve "sufficient progress" by December on key issues for unlocking the next phase of negotiations.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us