EU says Britain is still debating its own Brexit position months after triggering Article 50

Jon Stone
The Independent
EU officials have for months repeated the refrain that ‘the clock is ticking’: AFP/Getty Images
EU officials have for months repeated the refrain that ‘the clock is ticking’: AFP/Getty Images

The EU has taken a swipe at the British Government’s lack of clarity in Brexit negotiations – accusing David Davis’s team of not having solid negotiating goals months after the start of talks.

A European Commission spokesperson said there was still an “intra-UK debate” about what exactly Britain’s position was, despite the Commission itself having long set out a clear set of goals.

This week Mr Davis released a government working paper suggesting that the UK would only seek to end “direct” jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the UK – an apparent backtracking of Theresa May’s previous promise of a clean break with the institution.

Government sources insisted nothing had changed since Ms May’s commitment in her Lancaster House speech in January, but justice minister Dominic Raab, a longstanding Brexiteer, said there would be no clean break with the court and that the UK would have to keep “half an eye” on EU case law.

Asked about the issue in Brussels on Wednesday, European Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein contrasted the British side’s ongoing debate with the Commission’s “very clear” goals.

“You will not be surprised to hear me refraining from injecting myself into an intra-UK debate on their positions,” he told reporters.

“Our own position is very clear, is very transparent, and is unchanged.”

Theresa May triggered Article 50 on 29 March, beginning the time-limited Brexit process – weeks later she then proceeded to call an election.

EU officials have for months repeated the refrain that “the clock is ticking” with regards to negotiations. If the UK does not negotiate a deal with the EU after two years of talks it automatically crashes out of the bloc unless all EU countries unanimously agree to extend the negotiating period.

Mr Winterstein continued: “We look forward to the next negotiation round, where we expect and we hope to make progress on the three main issues that we and the EU27 have set out that need to be clarified upfront.

“We hope that we can make progress there, and I will not comment now on positions of one or the other party.”

Yesterday Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU was still “confused and puzzled” about Britain’s post-Brexit trade plans. He went on to accuse Britain of having “unrealistic” demands given its situation.

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