EU set to talk tough on Brexit transition offer

Diplomats involved in preparing for the first ‘orientation debate’ have warned London should not assume it can clinch an initial deal

Flags of the European Union (EU) fly outside the Berlaymont building ahead of a news conference at the end of the fifth round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. The European Union said scant progress has been made in the latest round of Brexit talks, increasing the chances of a messy departure as time is running out to clinch a deal. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation

EU diplomats will gather in Brussels on Wednesday to start working out a Brexit transition offer that would allow Britain to stay in the single market for about two years after it leaves the bloc in March 2019.

But some officials and diplomats involved in preparing for the first ‘orientation debate’ among envoys from the other 27 EU states warned London should not assume it can clinch an initial deal next month to open talks on post-Brexit relations. Some governments see benefits in making Britain wait for it.

An EU official familiar with Wednesday’s agenda said states would be asked their views on the “scope of the transition period, its length” and whether special regulations would be needed to enforce EU rules in Britain, which will no longer be a member but wants to maintain full access to EU markets.

Several officials told Reuters that in the transition period Britain would have to abide by all EU laws, even if they are changed during that period, but would have no influence over them. “Anything else would be too complicated," a second official said. Two others expressed the same view.

“The EU view on the transition period and the future will in a way be a moment of truth, exposing all the lies of those who campaigned for Brexit saying that Britain will be able to have the cake and eat it,” a third official said, a clear reference to the foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Wednesday’s discussions will also seek to gather views on the future trade relationship with London that is to follow a transition, which may finish in December 2020, at the end of the current seven-year EU budget period.

EU leaders told prime minister Theresa May last month they were not ready to negotiate post-Brexit arrangements until London offered more concessions on its ‘divorce’ terms. But they held out the prospect of opening such talks at a summit in mid-December and ordered their officials to start preparing among the 27 for a move to this new phase of talks.