EU moving ahead faster on new future than on Brexit talks

The Associated Press

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The European Union nations, minus Britain, will be coming up with clear options on a more tightly knit future for themselves even before they will allow divorce negotiations with the UK to move toward brokering a new relationship.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said Friday he would be presenting “a political agenda in two weeks’ time,” after comments in recent weeks from French President Emmanuel Macron, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and others on how to the reform the bloc.

That will be just days before the next EU summit is expected to reject British demands to start negotiating on its future links with the bloc alongside the current talks on how to make the cleanest Brexit possible.

Officials said Tusk will be tasked to reconcile Macron’s vision of how the EU should embrace a joint budget, shared military force and harmonized taxes to stay globally relevant with those of nations that might not want to move too quickly.

Tusk said he would seek “real solutions to real problems” and stress the need to make progress “step-by-step, issue-by-issue.”

A good start was a non-confrontational dinner Thursday night, where few of the usual east-west or north-south fissures spoiled the atmosphere, officials said.

The goodwill has not the been the same on Brexit over the past months.

Leaders at the Oct. 19-20 summit have to say whether “sufficient progress” has been achieved on divorce isssues like citizens’ rights, the Irish border and a financial settlement to grant the U.K. its wish to start talking about a new trade deal with the EU.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it will take “a miracle” for there to be sufficient progress by then, despite a round of negotiations in Brussels this week that ended with some progress.

Other leaders sounded a similar tone. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that despite “a better vibe and a better mood coming out of the negotiations” he questioned whether the time was right. “It’s still very evident that there’s more work to be done.”

For the past week, though, British Prime Minister Theresa May has sounded more conciliatory, and in Estonia guaranteed her country’s commitment to security even though the nation is leaving the bloc.

May visited troops in Estonia close to the Russian border early Friday and said that “the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security.”

She added that “we will continue to offer aid and assistance to EU member states that are the victims of armed aggression, terrorism and natural or man-made disasters.”

She also proposed a “new security partnership” intended to survive the divorce when her country leaves the bloc in 2019.


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