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Analysis

Brexit talks even more dead in water after May fiasco

by Hugo Dixon | 06.10.2017

Don’t expect any progress from the next round of Brexit talks, which start on Monday. Theresa May isn’t in a position to make the concrete concessions that will be needed to move the negotiations forward, and the EU won’t trust a nod and a wink from a wounded leader.

The prime minister hoped she could unblock the stalled negotiations with her Florence speech two weeks ago. That now seems almost a lifetime away. Boris Johnson’s exocet missiles, May’s own disastrous speech at the Tory conference and the plot to kick her out as leader have shattered what little authority she had.

The Florence speech involved no fewer that eight u-turns. This was enough for Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s negotiator, to pronounce there was a “new dynamic” in the talks. But it was always clear that we would have to make more concessions before EU leaders agreed to authorise discussions on our future deal.

After Florence it looked like May was preparing those concessions. A week ago The Times said she was going to accept divorce costs of £40 billion. She would also spell out a way to “ensure legal force is given to decisions by EU judges on the residency rights of Europeans living in Britain”. The EU summit in two weeks would then agree to let Barnier discuss the transitional deal which the prime minister has finally started to realise is needed to ensure the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff when we quit the EU in March 2019.

A week is an awfully long time in politics. Now The Telegraph is reporting that the UK will not be making any more concessions on money in next week’s talks.

There’s also a widespread view in Europe that they are now dealing with a lame-duck prime minister. This means the EU will be even less willing to accept hints and behind-the-scenes reassurances. It will want extreme clarity about our concessions, not ambiguity.

If the talks don’t move forward this month, no EU summit is scheduled until December. So the government will have wasted two more months in a negotiating process that in practice has only a year left.

But things could actually be worse than that. If the government can’t agree to make the necessary concessions now, why should anything change in two months? There’s a serious risk that we’ll go into next year with the talks still stuck. Business could then start to panic.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Brexit talks even more dead in water after May fiasco”

  • I heard Hugo speaking on Channel 4 programme and was delighted to hear clear facts about coming Brexit disaster. Remain politicians have let us all down by failing to speak out.
    Things are volatile, and maybe a wave of insecurity over Brexit will open up a chance to change direction. I hope so.

  • What an unholy mess. The pro-EU parliamentarians must, for the sake of the nation as a whole, come out and stand up for what they believe in.

  • Why has no parliamentarian (with the notable exception of Kenneth Clarke MP) had the courage of their self-avowed convictions as “Remainers” and – heeding Edmund Burke* – used their JUDGEMENT when voting on Brexit? And why have we not reminded them of this duty and held them to account?
    It beggars belief…

    * “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion”.

  • I don’t think business will start to panic as such – most businesses will have made contingency plans by now. What they will do is decide they can’t wait any longer to activate those plans.

    I suspect next year will see multinationals relocating much of their business to the continent. Businesses which do a lot of trade with the EU will most likely begin to cut staffing levels and use short term contracts for new hires. The car companies will finally have to make big investment decisions and will choose the EU.

    The Tories have very little time before the damage becomes irreversible .

  • Aside from the financial settlement, it is the Davis team which have been dragging their feet on the negotiations in Brussels, contrary to the impression he has sought to convey by his publishing of various papers over the last couple of months.
    The Barnier team have quite reasonably said on the Irish border question, why should Ireland be penalised for a problem they have not caused. If we insist on wanting to be outside the Customs Union and Single Market, there obvioulsy has to be a ‘hard border’. It is not just a question of the impact on UK-Irish trade and border controls, most of Ireland’s other EU trade travels via the UK. This is another obvious reason why we have to stay in both of the above. Brexiteer calls for Ireland to leave the EU in order to solve the problem are nothing less than impertinent.

    On citizens rights, the Davis team continue with their ‘smoke and mirrors’ one-liner statements. It is not sufficient to deliver a one-liner without going into the strings attached. This applies to the situations of UK as well as EU expat nationals. The EU have taken the line that the existing rights of expats should not be infringed. These are innocent people who have moved coountries in good faith under the European treaties, but are now unsure if their means of existence is to be completly undermined. No wonder there is a steady stream voting with their feet to leave.

  • What is the UK proposing as the ‘bright new future’ currently? Latest US trade option re agricultural products has fallen through, the banks are leaving, car production and sales are down, no idea about who will harvest our produce, no advance on immigration ideas, no reply about NI remaining in the EU.

    These issues are a drop in the bucket. We were lied to pre referendum and now May continues the lies and refuses to accept reality. When will sanity return to government and u turn us back into the folds of the EU. If they will have us, that is.