Policy papers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign ministry in Berlin called for a “balanced, ambitious and far-reaching” trade agreement to cover the UK’s future relationship with Brussels.
The leak suggested that pressure for a deal is building from the most powerful country in the EU despite the apparent deadlock in the Brexit negotiations over the size of multi-billion Britain’s divorce payment.
Whitehall insiders described the signal of support for a “comprehensive free-trade accord” in Germany was a “positive development” ahead of a crunch EU summit today.
Mrs May heads to Brussels today to appeal to her fellow European leaders to allow the Brexit negotiations to advance onto the crucial issue of future trade between the UK and the EU.
At a working dinner for the bloc’s 28 national leaders, the Prime Minister will call for trade talks to start “as soon as possible”.
A senior Government official said: “The Prime Minister will reiterate her commitment to a successful Europe with the UK as a strong and committed partner.
“She will urge fellow leaders to focus on the shared opportunities and challenges ahead and encourage them to move the conversation on to consider the future partnership and the implementation period so they are ready to engage in that discussions as soon as possible.”
The leaked document was a four-page draft position paper setting out the German’s government stance in the Brexit talks.
“We share the UK’s desire to secure a close partnership with the Union after its exit that covers economic and trade relations,” the document said.
Clashes over the size of the UK’s expected divorce payment continued to tarnish preparations for the summit yesterday despite the signs of growing pressure for a deal from Berlin.
Theresa May’s hopes of a Brexit deal were boosted yesterday
Antonio Tajani dismissed the British government’s offer of around £18billion
Tensions increased when European Parliament president Antonio Tajani dismissed the British government’s offer of around £18billion to cover a two-year transition period of close ties with Brussels after the formal Brexit date on March 29 2019 as “peanuts”.
He said: “We need to be realistic, we are realistic but the UK Government is not. We need our money back.”
Mr Tajani risked fuelling the row by comparing the Brexit talks with Margaret Thatcher’s battle to win a multi-billion annual rebate from Brussels in the 1980s.
“We need to put the money on the table, we need our money back as Mrs Thatcher said 30 years ago, we want not one euro more, not one euro less,” Mr Tajani said.
He suggested the divorce bill should be around £50billion.
“We are united, I don’t know where is in the unity in the United Kingdom we have only one position, only one negotiator. Please help us to help you,” he added.
Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith yesterday expressed frustration that the EU’s agenda in the negotiations appeared to be “all about money”.
The leak suggested that pressure for a deal is building from the most powerful country in the EU
In an article on the BrexitCentral website, the senior Tory MP and leading Brexit campaigner accused EU chiefs of wanting “as much as they can get out of the UK in return for engaging on post-Brexit trade arrangements”.
“All that nonsense about sufficient progress is of course a crude smokescreen to disguise a naked attempt to force us into a major financial commitment with nothing in return. That is why the talks have stalled,” Mr Duncan Smith wrote.
He also insisted the Government had to be ready to walk away from the talks without a deal if the EU continued attempting to push up the exit fee.
“Yes, we want a free trade agreement, but not at any price,” Mr Duncan Smith added.
In the Commons yesterday, Mrs May repeated her insistence that the Government was prepared for the possibility of no deal with the EU.
“I can confirm that what we are doing is working for the best possible deal for the United Kingdom, but it would be irresponsible of Government not to prepare for all possible scenarios, and that is exactly what we are doing,” she told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mrs May has repeated her insistence that the Government was prepared for the possibility of no deal
Last night, Mrs May published an open letter to the three million EU citizens currently living in the UK urging them to remain in the country after Brexit.
She also said the Government was close to an agreement with the EU to preserve their current rights including access to the NHS and other public services.
“We are in touching distance of agreement,” the Prime Minister wrote.
She added: “EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”
Mrs May also promised that a new process to allow EU citizens in the UK to formally register for “settled status” would be simple and cheap.
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“I know there is real anxiety about how the agreement will be implemented. People are concerned that the process will be complicated and bureaucratic, and will put up hurdles that are difficult to overcome. I want to provide reassurance here too,” the Prime Minister said.
“We are developing a streamlined digital process for those applying for settled status in the UK in the future. This process will be designed with users in mind, and we will engage with them every step of the way.”
Her open letter was published on Facebook last night and copies were posted to 100,000 EU nationals who have signed up to receive updates from the Government on the citizens’ rights issue.
EU chiefs faced embarrassment last night when the venue for today’s summit was switched on the eve of the arrival of leaders following a health alert at the bloc’s £300million new Europa Building in Brussels.
Toxic fumes from kitchen drains in the building – known as ‘the Egg’ for its bizarre architecture – led to staff being evacuated last week. About 20 catering workers were reported to have been taken ill in the incident.
EU officials yesterday announced that the summit will return to the Justus Lipsius Building next door as a “precautionary measure”.