British negotiators have got stuck into their third round of talks this week over the terms of Britain’s break-up with the European Union. The terms of the “divorce” have to be resolved first in the EU’s view, and then both sides can look at what sort of trading relationship they’ll have in the future. This approach has rankled with Davis Davis, who pointedly told Michel Barnier over their opening statements yesterday that he wanted to tackle “ all the issues” together. The bloc’s chief negotiator held fast, insisting that the talks can only begin to include trade once Britain is clearer about how much it will pay for the so-called “divorce bill”. He then lectured the British over their reluctance to play ball, accusing them of not taking the talks “seriously”.
Each side wants the other to move first, as Peter Foster notes, with David Davis only offering money if trade can be brought onto the table, while Mr Barnier only wants to do that if he gets a serious financial pledge. The British are set to try and crack this diplomatic chicken-and-egg scenario by presenting their European counterparts with legal analysis of what they believe they owe, while Brussels has decided to deploy Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Commission president has issued an extensive broadside against Britain, declaring – among other things – that he thought “none” of its policy papers were “satisfactory”. He thought Britain had not given a “definitive response” on the Irish border question, which is odd given that it can claim (unlike the EU) to have published a paper outlining its thinking on the subject. Mr Juncker insisted that the EU’s inability to talk about trade until initial issues like Ireland and the Brexit bill were resolved was “crystal clear”, but he is glossing over the Taoiseach’s suggestion that it could actually be “common sense” to make progress on all fronts.
In the meantime, Theresa May is off to bang the drum for brand Britain over a three-day visit in Japan. She will aim to talk about trade with its prime minister Shinzo Abe, and Tory MP James Cleverly is optimistic about its value. “The success of our relationship thus far hasn’t been dependent on a formal trade deal,” he writes for the Telegraph, “and even if it takes a while to sign one the Prime Minister’s visit will have a positive impact.”
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