EU demands more UK Brexit clarity before approving trade talks
(Bloomberg) The European Union still needs more details about the UK’s positions on Brexit before discussions can begin on a future trading relationship, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
"We cannot talk about the future without any real clarity," Juncker said in a hearing on Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "The prime minister’s speech in Florence was conciliatory, but speeches are not negotiation positions."
Juncker reiterated the EU’s stance that it’s too early to move onto trade discussions because there hasn’t been sufficient progress on separation issues, such as citizens’ rights and the UK’s financial settlement. Negotiations moved forward last week after Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in Florence, Italy, but officials said a breakthrough was some way off.
EU lawmakers are due to vote on a resolution stating that leaders of the bloc’s remaining 27 countries shouldn’t approve trade talks when they meet this month. While the Parliament doesn’t have a formal say in that, it does have a veto over the entire Brexit deal at the end of the process, meaning that it can’t be ignored.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, speaking in the same hearing, said "some clarifications" were still needed from the UK about its offer on protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the role of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.
"We need a consistent interpretation of the agreement on both sides of the Channel, that only the European Court of Justice can guarantee," Barnier said. "We need to have a direct application of the withdrawal agreement."
Negotiations between UK and EU officials resume in Brussels next week before the summit on October 19 to October 20. If leaders refuse to endorse the start of discussions on a future relationship and a transitional arrangement, the UK may have to wait until the next summit in December. The UK will leave the EU in March 2019 with or without a deal.
"We have not yet achieved sufficient progress to undertake in full confidence the second phase of negotiations," Barnier said.