May to ask for Merkel's backing in crunch Brexit talks

  • Theresa May to meet Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU summit in an attempt to force a breakthrough in Brexit talks.
  • May determined for talks on future trade relations to begin as soon as possible.
  • EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says there’s not been “sufficient progress” on divorce arrangements for trade talks to commence.

LONDON — Theresa May will have a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning in an attempt to push for a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations.

The prime minister will make the case for talks on Britain’s future trade relations with the EU to begin as soon as possible when the pair meet at an EU summit in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Friday, according to multiple reports.

May’s meeting with the re-elected German Chancellor comes after one-on-one discussions with EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at 10 Downing Street earlier this week.

In her keynote speech on Brexit in Florence last week, May made hinted at a number of concessions that she hoped would be a catalyst for progress in Brexit talks between British and EU negotiators, including on Britain’s financial obligations to the EU.

The UK prime minister suggested that Britain would be willing to pay €20 billion (£17.6 billion/$US23.6 billion) a year in exchange for full access to the European single market during a transitional period.

However, May’s attempts at persuading the EU to discuss future trade relations have so far been in vain.

The EU has repeatedly insisted that talks on future trade ties cannot begin until “sufficient progress” has been made on the divorce arrangements — chiefly Britain’s financial obligations, the Irish border, and citizens’ rights.

On Thursday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “important progress” had been made in recent talks with British negotiators, but it has not been sufficient enough for talks to move onto the next stage.

He added that the EU recognises “no possible link” between divorce arrangements and the issue of Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Barnier said it could still be “weeks or even months” until the divorce issues are settled. The EU Parliament, which will need to approve any Brexit deal, has published a resolution saying not enough “sufficient progress” has been made.

Any deal reached by EU and British negotiators is set to be sent to the Parliament for ratification in Autumn 2018, meaning little over 12 months remains for both sides to thrash out a deal.

Despite the uphill challenge facing Britain, Brexit Secretary David Davis was in a confident mood as he addressed the media alongside Barnier on Thursday.

“We made important progress and capitalised on the momentum created by the prime minister’s speech,” Davis said.

Barnier said both teams of negotiators will “keep working in a constructive spirit until we reach a deal,” and Davis said “it is in all our interests for these negotiations to succeed.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.