As European Union leaders agreed negotiating guidelines over the weekend, they sent an unambiguous signal to London that they thought British Prime Minister Theresa May’s starting position for talks was out of line with their own, rejecting her demands and accusing her of being in a “parallel reality”.
Showing how the Prime Minister’s determination to negotiate from a position of strength was ruffling feathers in Brussels, negotiators reported back to senior politicians in Europe of their frustration with Britain. London’s Sunday Times reports the remarks of one diplomat who said of the idea that Britain would not pay a penny of the reported €50 billion-plus ‘Brexit bill’ before an agreement on free trade has been reached as an “incredible demand. It seemed as if it came from a parallel reality”.
EU negotiators had made it clear that no agreement on trade could be reached until Britain gave guarantees over the future of European citizens in the UK, one of the many ‘cards’ that Britain holds for the forthcoming negotiations.
Among the positions taken by the European Union in their agreed stance towards Brexit, in moves that may be seen as a deliberate snub and provocation towards London, was a confirmation of a Spanish veto over the future status of Gibraltar, and encouraging Northern Ireland to break away from the United Kingdom and join the southern Republic of Ireland.
The Sunday Times reports the remarks of an EU diplomat, who said: “The UK’s position is miles apart, both on their financial obligations and on the EU citizens’ rights. The UK government simply wants to create a new category of ‘former EU citizens’ in their migration law, but our position is that we must go much further than that”.
Addressing the controversy in an interview with the Prime Minister Sunday morning, BBC politics editor Andrew Marr quoted a claimed conversation between EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Marr said Mr. Juncker remarked of the opening negotiations with Britain: “it went very badly, she is in a different galaxy. Based on that meeting, no deal is more likely than finding agreement”.
Despite the incredulous response in Europe, and perhaps keen to appear strong ahead of Britain’s forthcoming referendum, Mrs May didn’t back down from her position in the live interview, remarking that she though it “important that we go in there with the strength of hand in negotiations to get a good deal for the British people, that’s what I want to do”.
Replying directly to the comments by Juncker, the PM said “what this shows… is that these negotiations are going to be tough… I am confident we can get a deal”.
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