Theresa May is leaving Brussels after catching up with European leaders at the Eastern Partnership summit, the EU’s initiative to pull former Soviet nations into its sphere of influence. Brexit has been unavoidable for those there, to the exasperation of Croatia’s premier Andrej Plenkovic, who told reporters that it was “a topic which will remain with us for quite some time, so it’s always present silently.”
The Prime Minister seemed to enjoy herself at least, telling reporters that there was a “very positive atmosphere” in her talks with Donald Tusk and a “genuine feeling that we want to move forward together”. The European Council president, for his part, has tweeted that he feels it is “possible” leaders will be able to declare ‘sufficient progress’ has been made next month. He said that the EU wants to see further progress from Britain “within 10 days”, suggesting that the next review will come when Mrs May dines with Jean-Claude Juncker on December 4.
Her diplomatic charm offensive, currently dubbed “ operation jump together”, comes after she bumped up her proposed divorce bill payment. The bigger offer of around £40 billion should make it easier for European leaders to decide they are happy with where the divorce bill wrangling has got to, although Bloomberg reported that suspicions remain in London that the EU might just bank the extra money and demand more. This is why Mrs May is keen, as we reported this morning, for a written guarantee of trade talks in return.
Sorting the bill will not by itself guarantee smooth progress, as political turbulency in Ireland could frustrate the Irish border question. Leo Varadkar, who had been causing Mrs May a growing headache with his threats to veto trade talks, is under pressure to sack his deputy over a scandal which could topple his minority government. If a snap election is called, something Irish ministers are adamant will not be necessary, it could hamper the ability for Ireland to provide the decisive input that would allow negotiators to deem the Irish border question settled.
The DUP’s Nigel Dodds might think the EU is behaving an ” adversary”, but its leaders do not want to hold up talks indefinitiely. The prime minister of Bulgaria broke ranks with the remaining 27 to warn that the bloc could not handle an acrimonious divorce. ”If I were to say we are ready, it would be overestimating ourselves,” Boyko Borissov said. “If you ask whatever prime minister or chancellor here, they will tell you they are not ready.” That is why, he hoped, Michel Barnier would “succeed in accomplishing his task”. Mrs May has taken another step towards compromise. If the Europeans respond in kind, they may soon be taking a giant leap together.
via The Telegraph