Tory Brexit hopes rejected by Germany and European Parliament leaders

29/03/2017
michael

Theresa May’s hope for ‘parallel’ Brexit talks rejected by European leaders

ONE OF THE KEY PARTS of Tory leader Theresa May’s Brexit plans has been rejected out of hand by the Chancellor of Germany and the leadership of the European Parliament. 

With the tight two year Brexit negotiation timetable now underway, the Tories hoped that both the deal on leaving the EU and a deal on a future relationship could be discussed at the same time. 

However, EU leaders have made it clear that this will not happen – with talks focused first on the terms of exit before moving on to discussions on the framework of a future relationship. 

The blow to Tory plans suggests that talks would first have to agree the exit cost of UK financial obligations, the status of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK before discussions can take place on trade interests. 

In a press conference European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt made clear that they expected the talks to take place in that order, based on the Lisbon Treaty. This was also placed on the record in the parliament’s draft resolution on Brexit. The motion, signed by four of the parliament’s largest groups, said there should be no trade deal during the two years of talks. 

Theresa May’s article 50 letter beginning the exit process had said that: “We therefore believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union.”

However, the prospect of those talks taking place “alongside” each other were given a further blow when German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the idea. 

News agency AFP reported Merkel’s rejection to reporters in Berlin: “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship…and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.”

The double rejection will intensify pressure on the timetable of the exit negotiations, which have never been attempted before in the history of the EU.

Theresa May has set a roller coaster timetable of agreeing exit terms and a full trade deal in under two years – which will require months of ratification processes on top of negotiation time. International trade deal can take towards a decade to agree, and in the EU’s case requires ratification from all 27 state capitals. 

A failure to agree an order for talks risks wasting precious time as both parties would then move towards a ‘cliff-edge’ scenario of ‘no deal’. While President Tajani said he wanted to avoid this outcome, he emphasised that a collapse in talks would be “especially” damaging to the UK side. 

The European Council, led by President Donald Tusk, will publish its draft guidelines for negotiations on Friday 31 March. These will then be put to the EU27 member states on the 29th of April. 

Picture courtesy of European Parliament 

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