Britain wants back-channel Brexit talks  -- but Europe is resisting

Britain is keen to hold more informal talks on Brexit and trade, according to reports, but Europe is putting up resistance.

The Financial Times reports that Brussels is pushing back against attempts by British officials to sound out potential Brexit terms, while Politico reports that the UK plans to hold trade talks alongside official Brexit negotiations, rather than waiting until Britain has officially left.

British diplomats have been trying to sound out European officials to find out what demands would be feasible in Brexit talks, the FT says, but the EU is sticking to its guns, saying it will not negotiate, even informally, until Article 50 is triggered.

This is frustrating Britain. The FT quotes an unnamed senior government figure as saying: “It is in the EU’s interest, as well as our own, that the position we set out at the start of the negotiation is grounded in reality. It shouldn’t be one that we draw up without any sense of where EU governments stand.”

Brussels has taken a hard line against Britain following the June 23 vote to leave the European Union.

The EU appointed former Belgian Prime Minister and strident pro-European Guy Verhofstadt as its chief negotiator. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the appointment “amounts to pretty much a declaration of war on any sensible negotiation process.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Britain’s ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers told counterparts that Britain intends to hold trade talks with other nations before and during Brexit negotiations. This has angered some EU officials as if Britain agrees a deal before officially leaving it could be in breach of EU law.

Theresa May has signalled Article 50 will not be triggered until January 2017, while former European Commission head Herman van Rompuy says significant EU exit talks are unlikely to begin until the end of next year after Germany’s September elections have been settled.

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