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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, December 15, 2017

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EU's deadline: Britain asked to unlock Brexit in two weeks

Unlock Brexit talks

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LONDON, U.K. - Following a meeting with EU leaders on the sidelines of an EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May was given two weeks to unlock Brexit. 

The British Prime Minister was told on Friday, that “there is more work to be done” to unlock Brexit talks. 

At the meeting, the European Union repeated an early December deadline for her to move on the divorce bill and border with Ireland.

May was asked to try to break the deadlock over how much Britain will pay on leaving the bloc in 16 months. During the meeting, May signaled again that she would increase an initial offer that is estimated at some 20 billion euros - but this is about a third of what Brussels wants as the divorce bill.

However, in the lack of any immediate plans to detail which financial commitments Britain was planning to cover and with a growing row with Ireland over their shared border, European Council President Donald Tusk concluded Britain must take further steps.

Tusk, who coordinates Brexit for the bloc’s other 27 leaders, has increased the pressure on May to make progress by early December, in time for the EU to react at a summit on December 14-15.

In the absence of such progress, U.K. would risk losing a chance to push the talks to a discussion of future trade ties, something London desperately wants so it can offer some certainty to nervy businesses.

Commenting on Brexit minister David Davis’ complaint that Britain had made “all the running” in finding compromises on the third key divorce issue - the rights of expatriate citizens, Tusk said, “I can say only that I really appreciate Mr. Davis’s English sense of humor.”

Addressing a news conference, he said, “While good progress on citizens has been made, we need to see much more progress on Ireland and on the financial settlement. In order to avoid any ambiguity about our work calendar, I made it very clear to prime minister May that this progress needs to happen at the beginning of December at the latest.”

A week back, EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier gave Davis until the end of the month to detail the British approach to the financial settlement - and increase the money on the table.

However, Tusk, who met May earlier on Friday, added another demand - seeking more progress on the future status of the border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Britain has maintained that it is almost impossible to make such a promise, without discussing the future trade deal as that would determine the kind of customs needed.

May meanwhile, has been under pressure at home from lawmakers in her own party who are concerned she is preparing for Britain to walk away with no deal and from the EU.

Yet, May has tried to gloss over the differences and emphasize how far the talks have come.

Addressing reporters, she said, “We’ve agreed that good progress has been made. More does need to be done. But we’re clear, and I‘m clear, that what we need to do is move forward together and that is how we can ensure that we are going to get the best deal for the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

However, on Friday, following the release of details about the meeting, the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that Dublin was not ready to allow the talks to move onto a discussion of future trade next month.

Further, the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar added, “I can’t say in any honesty that it’s close on the Irish issue or on the financial settlement. After 40 years of marriage, most of them good, now Britain wants a divorce but an open relationship the day after.”

Ever since she lost her Conservative Party’s majority at a June election that she did not need to call, May is left with little room for maneuver. 

Some of her team of ministers are pressing her to hold off from naming a figure, seeing it as one of the few levers Britain has to press for better trade deal.

Tusk however offered some hope on Friday, saying, “I feel much better, safer after my meeting with Theresa May, everything is possible. There was very visibly goodwill on both sides. We still have a chance to achieve our first goal -- to achieve the finalization of the first phase of negotiations. I am very cautious. But optimistic.”

 

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