'Now it gets tough' Tusk warns May 'most difficult challenge is ahead' for Brexit talks

Posted on Dec 9 2017 - 7:50am by admin

Prime Minister Theresa May appeared alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, at a hastily arranged press conference earlier today to confirm the bloc is ready to progress onto trade talks. 

And with the PM herself acknowledging that the apparent breakthrough was the result of a “give and take on both sides”, critics fear she may have given away too much in order to strike a bargain with the clock ticking.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, urged caution after negotiators in London, Brussels and Dublin worked through the night before breaking an impasse over the status of the Irish border, the last major obstacle to the opening of trade talks.


Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker have shaken on a deal – but what now?

‘We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder.’

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

‘We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder.’

Mr Tusk said: “The most difficult challenge is still ahead. We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder.

“Since the Brexit referendum, a year and a half has passed. So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task.

“And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”

Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers rallied around her after the overnight deal, a possible signal that the Conservative party – which has been split over EU membership for generations – was not preparing to ditch her immediately despite the June election fiasco.


Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has warned negotiations will only get harder

But supporters of a radical Brexit were tougher to please.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation.”

Meanwhile DUP leader Arlene Foster, who earlier this week effectively vetoed a previous version of the agreement just as Mrs May thought it was in the bag, made it clear she and her party colleagues have ongoing concerns about the prospect of any “regulatory alignment” with the EU.

She said: “We cautioned the Prime Minister about proceeding with this agreement in its present form given the issues which still need to be resolved and the views expressed to us by many of her own party colleagues.

“However, it was ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister to decide how she chose to proceed.”


DUP leader Arlene Foster has admitted to concerns about the deal

Irrespective of how easy Mrs May finds it to “sell” the agreement she has reached domestically, especially given that she is rumoured to be willing to pay a “divorce settlement” of between £35 and 40 billion, there remains an enormous amount of work to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it, given the deadline for leaving the European Union has been fixed as March 29, 2019.

Huge questions remain about the relationship between the UK and the EU after that date on issues ranging from trade agreements and immigration.


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage claims the PM is heading for “humiliation”

Mr Juncker said: “Today’s result is of course a compromise. As in any negotiation both sides had to listen to each other adjust their position and show a willingness to compromise. 

“It is a result of a long and tense discussion between the Commission negotiators and those of the UK.” 

Significantly, the agreement reached between Mrs May and Mr Juncker notes that Britain still has the right to walk away from anything deemed to be unacceptable, prompting Brexiteer John Redwood to observe earlier this week he was “glad the Government’s policy is nothing is agreed until all is agreed, and that no deal is better than a bad deal”.

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