Brexit breakthrough: Theresa May bowls over EU negotiators to smash deadlock

Posted on Nov 23 2017 - 5:21pm by admin

The head of an influential think tank said the increased personal involvement of Theresa May and Treasury mandarins in the divorce talks has left eurocrats much more optimistic of success. 

Charles Grant, boss of the pro-EU Centre for European Reform, said Brussels was bowled over by the “impressive” performance the PM gave when she met EU Council chief Donald Tusk last week. 

And he predicted that European leaders will be prepared to accept Britain’s latest offer on the Brexit bill, thought to be around £36 billion, with the issue of Ireland more likely to hold up progress. 

The remarks from a well connected think tank, which has a track record of predicting the outcomes of Brexit negotiating rounds, will cheer UK negotiators as they head into a crunch three week period. 

EU leaders are next set to meet to discuss Brexit on December 15, with Mr Tusk recently warning the UK that it had until the beginning of next month “at the latest” to improve its offer. 

Officials in Brussels have long targeted December as the crucial breakthrough month for the talks despite officially setting a more ambitious deadline of October’s summit. 

Both sides had been optimistic of an early Christmas present but at the beginning of this month the talks appeared to sour, with virtually no new ground broken at the last negotiating round. 

In an effort to ensure that the first phase of the divorce does not drag into the new year Mrs May recently embarked on a concerted charm offensive in Gothenburg, holding meetings with Mr Tusk and Emmanuel Macron. 

After that meeting, a significantly more upbeat EU Council chief told reporters: “I feel much better, much safer after my meeting with Theresa May. I’m still very cautious, but optimistic.”

And on the back of a renewed feel good factor, Mr Grant told Bloomberg: “EU officials say that British officials are being impressive, and guiding the politicians. 

“The Treasury is more involved and that pleases them, because the Treasury is switched on. May is more involved and that pleases them. The British machine is getting its act together.”

He revealed that “whatever May said to Tusk in Gothenburg appears to have impressed the EU side”, but cautioned the new momentum could still fall flat as it has done in the past. 

Mrs May’s Florence speech was supposed to create a “new dynamic” in the talks, but after an initial bout of optimism progress ground to a halt this Autumn amid a row over money in particular. 

But with the UK set to up its offer progress on that issue appears to be honing into view, despite some member states’ concerns about the British demand the cash be linked to the terms of a trade deal. 

Mr Grant said that now the main threat to the progress of the talks is the Irish situation, with Taioseach Leo Varadkar prepared to wield his veto unless he receives assurances about no return to a hard border. 

He said: “Britain will have to accept language that says the North will have some kind of special status with regulatory convergence with the Republic. It will be vague.”

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