Brexit talks: British ignorance could see UK crash out with no deal, EU officials say

Sources say there is just a 50 per cent chance of success

Jon Sharman
Tuesday 02 May 2017 09:22 BST
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Prime Minister Theresa May on the general election campaign trail
Prime Minister Theresa May on the general election campaign trail (PA Wire/PA Images)

Brexit negotiations could fail because UK politicians are ignorant of how Brussels works, it has been claimed.

Senior European Union officials told the BBC they believed the Government did not understand how negotiations would work and that the chance of success was just 50 per cent.

It follows the leaking of details about a meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. Mr Juncker is said to have been "10 times more sceptical" about success after leaving Downing Street last week.

An EU official told the BBC Number 10 did not appear to accept the idea that Britain would have to settle its bill with the bloc, and continued to insist on negotiating Brexit and a new trade deal at the same time.

Another source told the broadcaster that echec, the French for "failure", came up "several times" at the Downing Street encounter.

It was felt the chances of successful negotiations were just 50 per cent, the BBC reported, because the Government had "no good understanding of the fundamentals" of the EU.

On Monday night—and aping one of Ms May's favourite general election slogans—chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "Any #Brexit deal requires a strong & stable understanding of the complex issues involved.The clock is ticking - it's time to get real."

According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, EU officials and Mr Juncker were surprised that Ms May did not appear to be fully briefed for last week's meeting, claiming she had unrealistic expectations about the length and process of negotiations.

The morning after the meeting, Mr Juncker called German Chancellor Angela Merkel and reportedly said Ms May "lived in another galaxy" and was "deluding herself".

Ms May dismissed the reports as "Brussels gossip" and said the talks had been "constructive".

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