Thursday, September 20, 2018

EU leaders are set to refuse to move to the second phase of Brexit negotiations due to the the UK having not made “sufficient progress” on withdrawal terms, according to a statement drafted by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, before next week’s crunch summit. 

The move is a significant setback for the British government, who have appealed to the EU to break the current deadlock.

A one-page statement will be the main outcome from the summit, where the 27 member states will meet to discuss the course for the negotiations over the coming months. 

European Union leaders are also expected to demand that Britain improves its withdrawal terms and offer London the prospect of a rapid move to free-trade talks in December if that happens.

In a substantial gesture towards British Prime Minister Theresa May, the draft says the EU should launch immediate internal work on possible transitional arrangements in order to be able to move ahead with negotiations on a future relationship as soon as possible.

“At its next session in December, the European Council will reassess the state of progress in the negotiations with a view to determining whether sufficient progress has been achieved,” the draft says.

Mr Tusk has discussed the strategy with all 27 leaders but the text may change after the summit. Currently the draft outlines areas where there has been progress but also notes that more work is required for the divorce settlement. 

The draft comes after the European Commission blamed the UK for a hole in the talks schedule on 11 October. Britain’s negotiating team strenuously denies it was responsible for the gap in proceedings and says the break was mutually agreed by both sides.

Mr Tusk said if negotiations continued at the current “slow” rate then both sides would have to “think about where we are heading”.

This week’s fifth round was the final scheduled round of Article 50 talks; more rounds are expected to be scheduled in due course.