Brexit negotiations should accelerate, say May and Juncker


Mrs May and Mr Juncker embrace after the dinner in BrusselsImage copyright
AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

Mrs May and Mr Juncker embraced after their working dinner in Brussels

Brexit negotiations should “accelerate over the months to come,” says a joint statement from the UK prime minister and the president of the EU Commission.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker met in Brussels earlier for a dinner they called “constructive and friendly”.

The meeting comes after the latest round of negotiations, where the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the two sides had reached “deadlock”.

Downing Street sources said the dinner had “been in the diary for weeks”.

Mrs May and Mr Juncker said they had had a “broad, constructive exchange on current European and global challenges”, including preserving the Iran nuclear deal and strengthening security in Europe to battle terrorism.

The pair – who were joined by Mr Barnier and Brexit Secretary David Davis – then spoke about Article 50 negotiations.

“The prime minister and the president of the European Commission reviewed the progress made in the Article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come,” the statement read.

“The working dinner took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere.”

‘Accelerate’ – the word the Tories need

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Theresa May made the visit to Brussels for a 90 minute working dinner

Accelerate, accelerate, accelerate, accelerate.

OK, in theory, if I am driving a car at four miles per hour and I speed up to eight miles per hour, technically I am accelerating.

I may still be basically crawling along. I still may be late – very, very late – for my eventual destination. But, by the very action of pressing the pedal and going faster, I am actually speeding up.

If anyone accuses me of going nowhere, or slowing down – well, look at my speedometer. I am going faster and I have evidence that you are wrong!

That is why, in the next few days, don’t be surprised if every Tory politician you see, hear, or read about is using that word (at least those loyal to the government) to claim that there is progress in the Brexit talks, just days after the chief negotiator on the EU side declared a deadlock.

Read more of Laura Kuenssberg’s blog here.

BBC Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly says the joint statement released after the dinner was “a masterpiece of uncommunicative communication”.

He said: “It recorded formally that Brexit negotiations are taking place between the EU 27 and the UK – a statement of the obvious that may hint at Brussels’ displeasure with British attempts to talk directly to individual member states as well.”

He added: “The gnomic communique was perhaps an attempt to avoid a repeat of the fallout from the last bilateral dinner in Downing Street in April after which the EU side was reported to have described the British as ‘delusional’ and even disparaged the food.”

The three initial topics for negotiation – the amount the UK owes the EU when it leaves, the future rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, and what happens on the Northern Ireland border – were expected to dominate the conversation ahead of an EU summit later this week, attended by the leaders of the 27 EU countries.

Mrs May hopes that the leaders will give Mr Barnier a mandate to start talks on future trade.

But the EU has said that until “sufficient progress” is made on the three topics they will not begin discussing the UK’s post-Brexit relations.

Mr Barnier has also said there is still no agreement on how much the UK should pay the EU when it leaves.

Last week an internal draft document suggested the EU was going to begin preparing for the possibility of trade talks beginning in December – provided the UK does more to bridge the gap on the key negotiating points.

The PM discussed Brexit ahead of the dinner in phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

No deal ‘would hike up prices’

Meanwhile, a new report suggests that leaving the EU without a trade deal would lead to a significant rise in living costs for millions of people.

Research by the Resolution Foundation and trade experts at Sussex University calculates that the average household would pay an extra £260 a year for imported goods.

For three million households – those who consume the most imported goods – that figure would nearly double to £500 a year.

The report says that without a Brexit deal, European goods would incur the same tariffs as those imposed on other World Trade Organisation countries, increasing levies on dairy products by 45% and meat products by 37%.

But a government spokesperson said ministers were optimistic about achieving an agreement with the EU that would allow for frictionless trade in goods and services.

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