June 21, 2024, 4:30 pm


A Malek

Published:
2018-11-19 17:34:16 BdST

Intense week of talks ahead of Brexit showdown summit


European governments get their own say on Brexit this week as they debate future ties with London in the run-up to Sunday’s summit to sign Britain’s divorce papers.

Ministers from the other 27 EU member states are in Brussels on Monday at
the start of what Prime Minister Theresa May calls “an intense week of
negotiations.”

The British leader has said she will be in the city herself later in the
week to meet the head of the EU commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, for last-
minute talks.

Neither May nor European leaders are keen to reopen the draft Brexit
withdrawal agreement that was grudgingly approved by the British cabinet last
week.

But both sides are scrambling to finalise a parallel political declaration
that will set out a road-map for post-Brexit negotiations on future EU-UK
ties.

“The focus this week will be on the future relationship,” May told Sky
News.

“We won’t agree the leaving part… until we’ve got what we want in the
future relationship, because these two go together.”

Specifically, London wants to lay out in as much detail as possible how to
get to a free trade agreement before the end of a 21-month post-Brexit
transition.

Brussels, meanwhile, insists Britain cannot have the same privileged
access to the single market as it did as a member state after Brexit on March
29 next year.

European negotiators plan to publish their version of the statement on
future relations on Tuesday, after their ambassadors met over the weekend.

On Sunday, according to diplomatic sources, the document was fleshed out
from just over six pages to around 20 as more details were agreed.

They also discussed an EU proposal that the draft withdrawal agreement be
amended to extend the post-Brexit transition to the end of 2022.

No decision was taken on this, however, and members are wary of re-opening
the document and allowing British hardliners to restart a debate on its
terms.

More closed-door talks were to follow on Monday, when the EU 27 ministers
of European affairs meet to prepare Sunday’s signing summit.

In the meantime, EU Council president Donald Tusk is going ahead with
plans to bring May and her fellow leaders together on November 25 to sign the
deal.

“We now have an intense week of negotiations ahead of us,” May will tell
British business leaders on Monday, according to Downing Street.

“During that time I expect us to hammer out the full and final details of
the framework that will underpin our future relationship,” she was to say.

“And I am confident that we can strike a deal at the council that I can
take back to the House of Commons.”

– Integrity of the Union –

While the EU 27 and their negotiator, Michel Barnier, have remained
publicly united through the 17-month negotiation — Britain’s political camps
are at war.

Whether or not May wins an improved future partnership offer this week,
she still has to get the withdrawal deal itself past the Westminster
parliament.

Hardline Conservative Brexiteers and May’s Northern Irish unionist allies
have pledged to vote down the treaty despite the threat of a calamitous no-
deal Brexit.

And the opposition Labour Party, scenting a chance to topple May’s
government, has also warned that its members will not support her deal.

After making what they regard as an offer that respects Britain’s desire
to leave but preserves the integrity of the Union, EU officials are surprised
by the furious debate.

Publicly, they refuse to intervene in Britain’s bitter debate, but
privately they insist both sides “exhausted their margin to manoeuvre” in the
divorce negotiation.

Some member states were annoyed that their rights to fish in British
waters were not guaranteed in the withdrawal deal and have been left to
future talks.

And Spain also has concerns about the future status of Gibraltar, the
British territory on its southern coast, a diplomatic source said.

But thee grumbles remained behind closed doors because, in the words of
one European diplomat, the ambassadors agreed “not to pour oil into the
British fire.”

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