With Brexit talks set to resume next week, the continuing disagreement surrounding when negotiations can begin on trade and the future relationship between the UK and the EU rumbles on.
Whilst the government are keen to enter into these discussions in October, the EU are steadfastly refusing to budge on their stance that before talks about any trade arrangement can begin “significant progress” needs to be made regarding the 3 basic issues; the Irish border, citizens’ rights and, of course, the financial settlement for the UK leaving the EU.
Fears of a delay were further heightened when the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar told The Guardian, “I think that the process will definitely take more time than we expected at the start of negotiations. There are so many difficult topics on the table, difficult issues there, that one cannot expect all these issues will be solved according to the schedule made in the first place.”
As the government publishes a number of whitepapers this week detailing our Brexit negotiating strategy (including one about goods being traded on the day we leave the EU), David Davis is urging the EU to re-think their position regarding any potential delay in negotiating a trade deal until the aforementioned progress on the other issues has been made.
However, this may be difficult to force through as the EU haven’t responded favourably to any suggestion yet that trade talks should run in parallel with withdrawal negotiations.
As recently as the 15th August, following the UK government’s publishing of a paper containing proposals for a new customs arrangement, the European parliament’s lead co-ordinator on Brexit Guy Verhofstadt described the proposals as “fantasy” and that first they “need to secure citizens rights & a financial settlement”.
And Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, also responded stating, “The quicker the UK & EU27 agree on citizens, settling accounts and Ireland, the quicker we can discuss customs & future relationship.”
The prospect of a delay isn’t helped by federal elections in Germany which are due to take place in September.
David Davis believes that this week’s whitepapers “show beyond doubt” that enough progress has been made to move on swiftly to the trade negotiations. He is acutely aware that businesses need clarity as soon as possible.
Theresa May stated last week that she was keen to “…develop a deep and special partnership with the European Union for the future that’s good for the UK and it’s good for the EU as well” whilst admitting there’s “a lot to be done”.
She’s not wrong.