- Theresa May fails to breakthrough Brexit stalemate despite lobbying EU leaders.
- After a 90-minute dinner in Brussels, the prime minister and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker agree to “accelerate” negotiations.
- European Council expected to rule that there has not been “sufficient progress” in Brexit talks so far.
- EU holding out on citizens’ rights agreements for more concessions from the UK over the financial settlement.
LONDON — Theresa May returned from Brussels last night having failed to break the “deadlock” in Brexit negotiations.
This prime minister’s last-minute attempt to persuade European Union leaders to allow talks to advance to discussions about the future UK-EU relationship.
May, alongside Brexit Secretary David Davis, had a 90-minute meeting over dinner with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday evening to discuss the state-of-play in negotiations ahead of a key summit this week.
She offered no further concessions to the EU leaders but warned Juncker and Barnier that progress would be stalled unless negotiations could move onto discussions over the transition period.
The prime minister also phoned French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Sunday and Monday but failed to convince them to push for trade talks ahead of the European Council.
Juncker and May released a joint statement following their meeting which suggested no breakthrough in Brexit talks, which the government had hoped for, instead reaffirming their commitment to the timetable agreed between Brussels and Westminster.
It said: “The prime minister and the president of the European Commission reviewed the progress made in the article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come. The working dinner took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere.”
Government officials highlighted that it has been stated that negotiations should “accelerate,” but this would be in keeping with the timetable agreed, once “sufficient progress” has been made on withdrawal matters.
The European Council of EU27 leaders will meet on Thursday to decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement in Brexit talks to allow them to advance to the next phase.
Following the fifth round of negotiations last week, Barnier said they were at “deadlock” over the financial settlement and that he could not propose to the European Council that talks should be allowed to move onto the future relationship.
A leaked draft statement from the Council suggested that European leaders would demand more progress on the three divorce issues before it would allow talks to advance, and also request that the European Court of Justice has a role in securing citizens’ rights post-Brexit.
The Council are expected to say that “sufficient progress” has not been made, and that it will only allow talks to move on to trade after the next meeting in December if further concessions are made by the UK.
Stalemate over financial issues
Whitehall sources suggested that European leaders are deliberately holding back from agreeing to a deal on citizens’ rights in order to push for more financial concessions from the UK.
The deal, which would protect the rights of three million EU citizens living in the UK, is “almost done” a senior official told the Times newspaper.
They said: “Clearly it is not in the interests of the EU side to accept that it is now only money that is the sticking block to progress, but in reality that is the situation. We could have wrapped up most of
“We could have wrapped up most of citizens’ rights by now but we are still waiting to hear their response to our proposals. It is hard to see this as anything else other than an attempt to increase the pressure on our position.”
The EU is pushing for the UK to make an “absolute” commitment to paying its share of the €238.8 billion (£205 billion) budget.
In May’s Florence Speech she committed the UK to paying its share of budget payments up to 2020, which would amount to about £20 billion, in order to ensure there isn’t a gap in the EU’s budget.
However, if the UK were to pay the total liabilities, up to €31 billion would be added to the financial settlement, which the government is refusing to concede until talks are allowed to progress onto trade and transition.
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