European Council Gives Green Light to Trade Talks With Great Britain

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) attending a bilateral meeting with European council President Donald Tusk (L), and Britain's ambassador to the European Union Tim Barrow (2-R), on the second day of the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 20 October 2017. (Photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Leaders of the European Union have agreed on the platform for trade negotiations with Great Britain, a political process considered to be phase two of Brexit. They have however indicated to the British Prime Minister Theresa May that London’s debt to Brussels will have to be paid.

The statement read: “The European Union … notes that, while the UK has stated that it will honor its financial obligations taken during its membership, this has not yet been translated into a firm and concrete commitment from the UK to settle all of these obligations.” (20-euco-conclusions-art50)

May: Nobody needs to be concerned about the EU budget

Those expenses could rise to 60 billion euros, May said to other participants of the European Council. The British government wants the post-Brexit relations and the process of exit itself to go simultaneously, while The EU is insisting that the two sides agree on an exit bill, the rights of EU citizens in a post-Brexit world and Irish border issues before delving into future ties.

The softening response from European leaders is considered a small win for May, as the post-Brexit ties will be on the table already in December, on another European Council.  Asked whether she had improved an offer of about 20 billion euros, May said she had repeated commitments she made in a speech in Italy last month.

“What I made clear to my EU counterparts in relation to financial contribution is that nobody need be concerned for the current budget plans and that we will honor the commitments that we have made during our membership,” she clarified.

“No deal not an option”

Reports that Brexit talks between Britain and the EU are deadlocked have been exaggerated, the president of the European Council Donald Tusk has said. He told reporters at the European Council summit in Brussels that there had been progress in talks, even though sufficient progress had not been reached to move to trade negotiations. With this statement, Tusk has directly contradicted a recent comment from the EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who defined the talks as stalled.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, however, stood by Barnier’s urgent description of the situation. He added that an outcome where Britain exits the EU without a deal would a blow to both sides.

Merkel and Macron: More work to be done

“I think it is very clear what additional steps need to be taken,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference at the end of the summit, saying movement on the financial settlement was crucial for progress in December.

The Brexit negotiations are “far from” settling Britain’s financial obligations to the EU, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Speaking in Brussels, he said that the two sides are far from where they should be at this point. He also said that many people who voted for Brexit didn’t have all the necessary information needed to make a choice.

“A lot is in the hands of Theresa May,” he concluded.

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