After previously insisting the UK would be forced to settle a £50 billion Brexit bill before discussing its future relationship with the block, European Union (EU) negotiators have backtracked and are talking about trade.
The revelation will be seen as a breakthrough for the UK’s Brexit team after Brexit Secretary David Davis met with the EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier in Brussels Monday.
Sources told Politico that Mr Barnier planned to raise the issue of how Brexit will impact EU import quotas. “It’s a question of whether the Brits want to cooperate or if they want to go their own way”, one official told the website.
In February, a “senior Eurozone official” who was in contact with Mr Barnier said he would insist on “discussing money and acquired rights [of expatriate citizens] until December,” before trade talks could begin.
Although discussions of EU import quotas does not equate to the broad topic of a future relationship that the U.K. has pushed to cover early on, it does represent a modest step down on behalf of the EU.
It is likely the EU made the U-turn out of self-interest. They are already considering how they will adjust the amounts of imports they allow in from abroad once Britain leaves the bloc.
The UK, for example, consumes 40 per cent of all sheep and goat meat from New Zeland entering the EU. Certain quantities of these products can enter the EU from abroad with lower duties, and this will have to be tweaked without the UK.
According to Politico, officials have also said that other EU27 negotiators (from member states) plan to stray onto the topic of trade early in the process, despite the EU’s earlier insistence that the “Brexit-bill” and migrant’s rights needed to be resolved first.
Also Monday, the Czech secretary of state for European affairs – Ales Chmelar – said the UK could get a “much broader, much deeper” free trade deal with the EU after Brexit than the recent deal struck between Canada and Brussels.
He added, however, that the UK must honor “commitments” if it wants “deeper” trade deal with EU.