EU Snubs Appeaser Theresa, Says No Trade Talks ‘Unless Miracles Happen’

Juncker Barnier
john Thys/Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has snubbed Theresa May’s efforts to win some concessions from Brussels, as it runs up its highest spending overhang ever.

The prime minister’s speech in Florence and subsequent developments — which suggest Brexit Britain will at least “take account” of European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings, if not outright submit to it — were concessions intended to demonstrate goodwill, persuading the bloc to begin discussions on trade.

However, despite senior eurocrats reportedly boasting that they “pretty much dictated” parts of the speech, the EU’s leading figures have embarrassed May by insisting her concessions still do not represent “sufficient progress” on its demands for the scope of the talks to be opened up.

“Theresa May’s speech made it possible to unblock the situation to some extent, and bring a new dynamic to the situation, but we are far from being at the stage – and it will take weeks, maybe even months – before we are able to say there has been ‘sufficient progress’ [to move on to trade talks],” pronounced Barnier (right).

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (left) has also told reporters Friday: “I’m saying that there will be no sufficient progress from now until October unless miracles would happen.”

It is understood that Brussels is keen to secure budget commitments from Britain beyond 2020, in order to use money from the outgoing country to meet outstanding spending commitments of some 239 billion euros.

Critics of the EU’s position have said that separating Britain’s so-called divorce bill, the role of the ECJ in upholding EU citizens’ rights in Britain, and so on, from trade talks, is arbitrary, with no basis in the treaties.

For example, Open Europe director Henry Newman has responded to Barnier scolding Britons by saying it was their decision to leave by pointing out: “[T]he UK is exercising a right to leave for which the EU treaties themselves specifically allow. And nowhere does it say that ‘sufficient progress’ has to be made on, say, money, before the future can be discussed.”

“And nowhere does it say that ‘sufficient progress’ has to be made on, say, money, before the future can be discussed.”

Newman also praised popular Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg for highlighting “the absurdity of the argument that the UK must settle money first.

“[Rees-Mogg] asks whether the EU would insist on agreeing and paying its debts to us before anything else, if the UK was one of the biggest net recipients of EU funds, rather than the one of the biggest net contributors. I think we can all answer that.”

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