EU leaders adopt conciliatory tone following Council summit

Written by Martin Banks on 20 October 2017 in News

Detailed trade issues are already going on behind the scenes between the EU and UK, Syed Kamall has revealed.

Syed Kamall | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

Such discussions should, according to the timetable set out, be part of the second phase of the talks and only when agreement has been thrashed out on the EU’s three unofficial red lines.

These are the divorce bill, the sum UK must settle before leaving the EU, the Irish border issue and citizens’ rights.

But according to one MEP, some trade talks are already being discussed such as tariff rate quotas and the EU has also requested legislation in the UK to recognise geographical Indicators.

On Friday, the ECR group co-leader Syed Kamall told this website, “Given that individual national governments of the EU are now preparing their own papers on UK-EU trade, expect other trade issues to be discussed even if the EU claims it has not formally moved to such talks.”

Whatever may be said publicly, background work is already underway on the future UK/EU trade relationship, he said.

EU leaders were in Brussels this week and the summit wound up without agreement on the three issues the EU says must be resolved before talks, formally at least, can move to trade issues.

Speaking on Friday, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May did not deny that she had told EU leaders on Thursday night that her Florence speech was “not the final word” on what Britain was willing to pay as a financial settlement for Brexit.

Asked whether it was conceivable that the total bill could reach €60bn, as demanded by the EU, Theresa May did not dismiss the sum out of hand, unlike Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, who has said Brussels can “go whistle” for such an amount.

“I’ve been very clear on where we are in relation to the financial settlement,” she said. “I’ve set out the reassurance to our European colleagues and we will go through that line by line in relation to the commitments that we’ve made in our membership.

In a statement May told reporters, “This Council is an important moment. It is a point at which to assess and reflect on how to make further progress.

“My speech in Florence made two important steps, which have added a new impetus to the negotiations. I gave a firm commitment on the financial settlement and I proposed a time-limited implementation period based on current terms, which is in the interest of both the UK and the EU.”

The statement added, “Both sides agree that subsequent rounds have been conducted in a new spirit. My fellow leaders have been discussing that this morning and I believe that it is in the interests of the UK that the EU 27 continues to take a united approach.

“But if we are going to take a step forward together it must be on the basis of joint effort and endeavour.

“We must work together to get to an outcome that we can stand behind and that works for all our people.”

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said May’s address over dinner was her “best performance yet” but that the UK’s failure to offer concrete proposals on the financial settlement continued to be the stumbling block.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, said, “It is clear to see there is rhetorical progress, but we need to come to conclusions because uncertainty is not good for the continent and economies. It is up the to the British government to propose something that is the basis for progress.”

Speaking outside the summit venue, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, echoed those comments, but also suggested the EU needed to “stop posturing.”

European Council President Donald Tusk said, “My impression is that the reports of the deadlock between the EU and UK have been exaggerated.

“And while progress is not sufficient, it doesn’t mean there is no progress at all. Today the Council has agreed to start internal preparatory discussions in relation to the framework for the future relationship and on transitional arrangements. 

“It is clear that this would not be possible without the new momentum given by the Florence speech of Prime Minister May. I would like to reassure our British friends that in our internal work we will take account of proposals presented there. The negotiations go on, and we will continue to approach them positively and constructively.”

He added, “And as we are all working actively on a deal, I hope we will be able to move to the second phase of our talks in December.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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