In a response likely to provide much encouragement to Downing Street the country’s foreign minister told reporters the PM’s keynote address did provide ammunition with which to move the negotiations forward.
Anders Samuelson admitted that the issue of a Brexit bill, rumoured to be up to £90 billion, was “definitely” the biggest sticking point in the talks but expressed confidence that a “fair” agreement will be reached.
His response was in contrast the the more downbeat assessment provided by France’s Emmanuel Macron, who said the speech had changed nothing until “sufficient progress” is made on the key divorce issues.
It was exactly the kind of reaction the British Government was seeking to the address, which included a number of eye-catching concessions on paying the Brexit bill and keeping EU conditions during a transitional period.
Arriving at a meeting of the bloc’s General Affairs Council in Brussels this morning, Mr Samuelsen expressed a “positive attitude” towards the Florence speech and said securing a good deal with Britain was vital to Copenhagen.
He said: “We heard the address from May a few days ago and I decided to listen to that address in a positive attitude. I think there is a kind of movement now that we have to grab, all of us.”
Referencing next month’s EU Council meeting, at which it was initially hoped the EU27 would be able to trigger trade talks, he added: “We’re near, we’re about to reach the first deadline and hopefully we’ll see that the negotiations move forward.”
Asked whether securing a trade deal with Britain was a top priority for Denmark, he replied: “We will have to find each other and I think that we will be able to find each other.
“We need to have a good cooperation with the UK also after Brexit, and we’ll definitely have that. But of course we’ll have to have it in a way where it’s fair and square for both parties.”
Arriving at the same meeting the Estonian deputy PM Matti Maasikas, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU Council, was more guarded saying that “some progress” had been made.
He told reporters: “There has been some progress but we really need to move forward now. Time is of the essence. We will be hearing the assessment by the chief negotiator and then we’ll see.”
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is set to update ministers from the other 27 member states on the progress of the Brexit talks at a meeting this afternoon, at which he is expected to address the new proposals put forward in Mrs May’s speech.
In the immediate aftermath a number of EU figures reacted positively to the address including Mr Barnier, who described it as “constructive”, whilst Irish PM Leo Varadkar said it was a “genuine effort to move things along”.
In Florence the PM agreed that Britain will honour all its budget commitments to 2020 – a sum believed to be in excess of £20 billion, and also conceded that the UK will continue to accept all EU rules during a two-year transition period.
The speech was widely billed as an attempt to break the deadlock engulfing the talks, which have stalled in particular over the financial disagreement, with the UK hoping such concessions will breathe new life into this week’s fourth round of negotiations.