- Reuters/Francois Lenoir
- The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator reportedly pushing for Brexit talks to move onto trade and transition as early as next week. Michel Barnier wants permission from European governments to begin discussing future trade relations with British negotiators. Germany will stand in the way until Britain makes guarantees on its financial obligations.
LONDON – The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is reportedly urging EU member states to give him permission to begin discussing trade and transition arrangements with Britain next week, despite opposition from Germany and others.
Barnier is behind closed doors pushing for Brexit negotiations to move onto exploring future trade and transition arrangements between the EU and Britain in order to give businesses more assurances heading into the New Year, the Times reports.
The EU has repeatedly insisted that trade talks cannot commence until “sufficient progress” has been made on the Irish border, citizens’ rights, and Britain’s financial obligations to the bloc. Barnier last month said that it could take “weeks or even months” for talks to move beyond this stage.
However, Barnier has unexpectedly become one of Britain’s best hopes for avoiding a no-deal Brexit. The Times reports that Barnier will this week ask the governments of EU member states for approval to put together a negotiating mandate for the rest of 2017, which he hopes can include exploratory talks on trade and transitional arrangements.
Barnier remains in the belief that “sufficient progress” is yet to be made, but believes enough “positive atmosphere” now exists at the negotiating table for future relations to be discussed.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she wants a transitional phase lasting around two-years to take effect once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019 in which Britain would continue with the “current terms” single market access.
Germany says nein
May will be encouraged by Barnier’s eagerness to discuss trade but faces a considerable hurdle in Germany, which wants Britain to give further guarantees on its financial obligations before trade talks begin, the Times adds.
“Germany wants more and it wants it more or less in writing… That is toxic for the British,” one diplomat is quoted as saying.
Germany, along with France and Romania, has blocked recent attempts to begin talks on trade next week, according to diplomatic sources quoted this week.
The source said that Germany is keen for the EU to spend at least three months establishing a common position on transition, adding that “Germany is hostile and has told the others that it is not going to happen.”
The British side has so far been reluctant to disclose how much money it is willing to hand over to Brussels as part of its financial obligations to the EU. The EU is yet to officially say how much money it is believed it is owed but reports suggest the figure could be as big as €60 billion.