BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union on Monday ramped up pressure on Britain ahead of a new round of Brexit talks, warning again that time is running out for Prime Minister Theresa May to clinch a deal.
“There has been some progress but we really need to move forward now. Time is of the essence,” said Estonian deputy EU affairs minister Matti Maasikas, whose country holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.
He was speaking before hosting a meeting of European affairs and foreign ministers, to be attended by EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Barnier and his team also meet their British counterparts in Brussels in the afternoon to kick off four days of talks.
May said Friday that her government would keep paying the EU and following its rules during a two-year transition period after Brexit in March 2019, but the Europeans want to see how her offer and others made in a speech in Florence translate into concrete proposals.
EU leaders meet on Oct. 19-20 to assess whether Britain has made “sufficient progress” on the terms of the divorce arrangements for negotiations to move on to future relations and trade.
Britain says all issues are intertwined and should be discussed together. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but any deal must be sealed by October 2018 to leave time for parliaments to endorse it.
EU officials are pessimistic about expanding the talks as little headway has been made on the key issues of Britain’s financial settlement, the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the rights of citizens hit by Brexit.
Denmark’s foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, on Monday was more upbeat than most, although he conceded that money is “always” the problem.
“We are about to reach the first deadline and hopefully we will see that the negotiations move forward,” he said.
Britain’s minister of state at the Department for Exiting the EU, Joyce Anelay, declined to answer reporters’ Brexit questions, saying little more than “we remain committed to all the continuing business, and also maintaining our rights and obligations as a strong EU member” until March 2019.