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07 November 2017

The Guardian: EU warns UK it has less than a month to make concessions

Senior officials in Brussels say the EU is unlikely to agree to trade talks in December unless the UK offers more on the Brexit divorce settlement.

There remains “a lot to do on financial obligations”, Italy’s Europe minister Sandro Gozi said on Tuesday, after meeting the Brexit secretary, David Davis, in Rome.

One senior diplomat told the Guardian that the EU would not give way on the negotiation timetable, as it wanted the security that the UK would sign up to share the EU’s debts and pension liabilities, although it was not seeking a number. “When we drafted the guidelines we knew we would reach this moment,” the diplomat said, referring to the standoff.

With the British government on the rocks, May’s political future is now an open source of speculation in Brussels. Senior officials wonder if she will be in her job in January and worry that a potential Prime Minister Boris Johnson could throw the talks into confusion.

Despite these concerns, the EU is pressing ahead with preparations for a future trade deal with the UK.

A document obtained by the Guardian reveals the EU’s groundwork and confirms – as Brussels has long said – that it will be impossible for the UK to get a finished trade deal by March 2019.

The eight-page document raises more questions than it answers, but reveals the size of the task to agree a transition and future deal that covers trade, security, defence and foreign policy.

The document asks how the EU can “ensure a level playing field” to stop the UK gaining an unfair advantage, by either subsidising industry or undercutting the EU on environmental, welfare and labour standards.

This question was thrown into sharp relief, after the US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, told the UK to scrap EU standardsincluding rules on chlorinated chicken, if it wanted a trade deal with the US.

EU member states are also yet to agree whether the EU should aim for one or two deals on the future relationship.

The document shows the EU has not agreed an end-date for a transition, or how to treat the UK once it drops out of EU institutions and agencies. “Will there be a need for specific institutional mechanisms given that the UK will no longer be represented in the EU institutions and participate in the decision-making process,” it asks. [...]

Full article on The Guardian

© The Guardian

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