The third round of Brexit negotiations are set to begin next week. European leaders had hoped this next stage would see “sufficient progress” on issues like Ireland and the Brexit bill, allowing them to decide in October that it was time to consider Britain and the EU’s future trading relationship. But the frustrated noises coming out from both sides suggest that this deadline is likely to slip.
Michel Barnier revealed last month, Peter Foster reported, that he feared negotiations were two months behind, expecting trade to come onto the agenda in December. The European side has been faithfully sticking to that line, with sources briefing it to Sky News, and Slovenia’s prime minister suggesting the same to the Guardian. The British, in turn, are pushing for talks to include the prospect of a free trade deal in October even if both sides have not agreed much over the opening issues. They argue that trade is inextricably linked to matters like Ireland, so should not be cordoned off. “With the clock ticking, it wouldn’t be in either of our interests to run aspects of the negotiations twice,” David Davis declared.
The British Government is seeking to keep up the pressure on Brussels by publishing reams of papers laying out what it wants in a range of areas. Today it published two detailing its plans for confidentiality and access to official documents after Brexit, as well as the continued supply of goods into the European market by British firms without extra penalties. A paper on civil judicial cooperation is expected tomorrow, although it will likely be overshadowed by the paper ministers intend to release later this week on how Britain will treat rulings by the European of Justice. Their opening pitch, we report, is that any judgments from cases which have been filed by the end of March 2019 will be respected, which means that Britain could be subject to ECJ rulings for years after leaving.
Both sides will have a lot to thrash out if they still aspire to make headway in time for October. But next week’s talks are set to be delayed by a day so that British officials can enjoy next Monday’s bank holiday. European negotiators, by contrast, had to work during a public holiday last Tuesday in order to respond to Britain’s customs paper. British negotiators – and Big Ben – may be able to have a break, but the Article 50 clock will still be ticking.
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