As negotiators face off against their European counterparts for the fifth time, Theresa May is doing what she can to ensure they play ball. The Prime Minister said in the Commons this afternoon that “the ball is in their court”, and she sought to show MPs that she was getting Britain ready for life outside of the European Union by publishing two white papers outlining how it would get its trade and customs arrangements into law. You can read about it in more detail, and the reaction she has got, on our liveblog.
Mrs May might be getting Britain ready for trade in the Brexit era, in which she envisages a “dynamic and unique” relationship with the EU, but that is something the bloc doesn’t want to talk about yet. So the Prime Minister, as a Whitehall source tells the Telegraph, hopes to “focus minds in Brussels on the fact that we are going ahead with our preparations even if the EU refuses to start trade talks”. The Government has made clear that if it doesn’t get onto trade by December, it will ” unlock” billions of pounds for the purpose of getting Britain ready for a “no deal” exit. If that comes to pass, the legislation may then need to prepare Britain for life trading under WTO terms.
Today’s talks have got underway in the meantime, although David Davis was not there to launch them as they are said to be “highly technical” discussions on the Irish border and citizens’ rights. Consensus may well emerge from this “ wonkish wiff waff”, as our Brexit correspondent James Rothwell calls it, but Michel Barnier’s team warn that “ two out of three isn’t good enough” if Britain hopes that will be enough to allow trade to come onto the table. Agreement would still be needed on the third item, the notorious Brexit bill. President Juncker has previously suggested that a “miracle” would be needed for EU leaders to decide “sufficient progress” had been made on these points later this month. Denmark will have raised Brexiteer hopes, as its finance minister has expressed exasperation about the EU’s “game” over the Brexit bill. The Danes have broken ranks, but I suggest online that it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that EU leaders are set to overrule Monsieur Barnier in rushing onto trade talks.
Mrs May may be waiting for Brussels to return her serve, but EU negotiators feel that it is Britain who should be making more of an effort.“The ball is entirely in the UK’s court,” the Commission’s chief spokesman said. One official seemed more sceptical about talk of Brexit tennis. “Mr Barnier has played a lot of sport but I don’t think he plays tennis,” they said, adding that “sports metaphors don’t work, at least not the ones with winners and losers.” That may be so, but both sides will be aiming to have scored some points so they can show their fans how hard they fought on the court.
Source: for MORE