GOTHENBURG, Sweden: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday she hoped the EU would respond “positively” to her proposals for Brexit, as the bloc’s leaders warned time was running out to move to trade talks in December.
May will hold talks with EU President Donald Tusk, and has already met with her Irish, Swedish and Polish counterparts at a summit on European social reforms in Gothenburg as a deadline looms for Britain to make enough progress to move on to trade talks in December.
“I look forward to the European Union responding positively to that so we can move forward together and ensure that we can get the best possible arrangements for the future that will be good for people in the United Kingdom and across the remaining EU27,” May said.
May repeated that “we will honor our commitments” on the exit bill the EU says Britain must pay, as she promised in a speech in Florence in September.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters Britain needed to do more if it hopes to unlock the next phase of Brexit negotiations, on future trade relations and a transition deal, at a summit in Brussels on December 14.
“The clock is ticking. I hope that we will be able to come to an agreement as far as the divorce is concerned at the December council (summit) but work has still to be done,” Juncker told reporters.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that Britain had just two weeks to meet the bloc’s conditions on the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the Irish border if it wanted an agreement at the next EU summit to unlock the next phase of talks.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar meanwhile struck a firm line, insisting there had to be progress on Dublin’s demands that Brexit should create no “hard border” between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
“I think it’s certainly possible that we can come to conclusions in December allowing phase two talks to begin. But, you know, if we have to wait until the new year, or if we have to wait for further concessions, so be it.”
Varadkar said Britain had “unilaterally taken the customs union and single market off the table” and therefore wanted it “written down in practical terms in the conclusions of phase 1” that there would be no physical border.
“It’s 18 months since the referendum, it’s 10 years since people who wanted a referendum started agitating for one, sometimes it doesn’t seem like they’ve thought all this through,” he said. AFP