Brexit: Theresa May considering 'rolling' negotiations with EU as talks descend into disarray

Downing Street added the Prime Minister is prepared to 'intensify' the talks with the bloc

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 04 September 2017 14:16
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Theresa May reportedly wishes to step up the tempo of talks
Theresa May reportedly wishes to step up the tempo of talks

Theresa May is considering the possibility of continuous negotiations with the EU in an effort to “intensify” the Brexit talks with the bloc.

Ahead of an anticipated decision from the EU next month on whether to progress onto talks about a future trade deal – the Prime Minister’s priority – it was claimed the Brexit department is seeking to ditch the current format of the negotiations.

Instead of one round of talks a month in Brussels, UK officials are reportedly requesting to switch to a rolling week-by-week basis until a breakthrough is reached.

It comes after the talks appeared to hit a sticking point last week after Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the UK Government wanted an “impossible” deal where it retains the benefits of EU membership while leaving the bloc.

Asked about the prospect of stepping up the tempo of talks, the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said the Government is “ready to intensify” the negotiations.

“Nothing has been formally agreed but that is something that we can discuss,” she added. “Typically, with negotiations, as time goes on you see the pace pick up.”

Referring to a report in Politico that the Brexit department has requested rolling talks to begin on 18 September and continue until a breakthrough is achieved, the spokeswoman added: “Certainly we wouldn’t rule that out but nothing has been agreed yet.”

The comments came after Nick Clegg, the former deputy Prime Minister, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the negotiations were moving too slowly and will not be completed by March 2019 – the deadline permitted under Article 50.

“It’s a bit like staring at a building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea,” he added.

But the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman also ruled out suggestions that the Government would seek to ask the EU 27 to extend the two-year timeframe for talks.

Speaking last week Mr Barnier told reporters in Brussels that “decisive progress” had not been made on “principal subjects”, though Brexit Secretary David Davis struck a more positive tone, saying the “high-stress week” of negotiations had delivered “some concrete progress”.

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