Though many top EU officials including chief negotiator Michel Barnier acknowledged Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in Florence as being encouraging and impressive, but still, it failed to break the Brexit stalemate, as the European Union demands more from the U.K. if there’s to be any hope of a discussion about trade next month.
The precise disengagement bill which Britain has failed to discuss still poses as the blockade from trade negotiations even as the fourth round of talks kicked off.
• The stalemate continues
Michel Barnier briefed European affairs ministers from the 27 other EU states in Brussels on Monday, but the respective views of the ministers lurks around the skepticism over whether talks can move from the divorce stage to the future relationship at an October summit.
According to two sources privy to the issue, the shift in tone was appreciated and perhaps words of encouragement could be forthcoming at the summit but the EU stood unyielding to May’s request of trade talks.
Despite May’s offer on Friday to pay a financial settlement – a supposed key to unlocking the deadlock, Brexit Secretary , David Davis, still insisted that the final bill won’t be agreed on until the future relationship is settled.
“It’s obvious that reaching a conclusion on this issue can only be done in the context of, and in accordance with, a new deep and special partnership with the EU,” Davis said.
• The EU leaders hold the cards
But, irrespective of the arguments from the duo of Barnier and Davis, It’s up to EU leaders to give approval for trade talks to begin and the first chance they have to do that is a mid-October summit. They could however glean their resolve from Barnier who has repeatedly hammered that “sufficient progress” has not been made on the bill and other divorce issues like the Irish border – an important reference for the leaders before they can give a nod.
Barnier told reporters: “this week’s talks “should be a moment of clarity. The EU is keen and eager to understand better how the U.K. government will translate the prime minister’s speech into negotiating positions.”
The bloc’s skepticism is not unconnected with several conflicting statements from May’s cabinet, particularly, comments by foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
• Unclear terms of the UK and what EU stands to loose
While the EU officials insisted on a clear outline of May’s intentions, they are also wary of losing the ability to use trade as leverage to extract the maximum amount of money. They also expressed their lack of full understanding of what Britain wants from its transition period, or how long it should last.
Several ministers revealed that there was general agreement among the EU’s 27 other governments that more details are needed on the PM’s proposals.