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Donald Tusk: There's not 'sufficient progress' in Brexit talks to discuss future UK-EU trade

Mr Tusk said the UK's position is at least now more 'realistic' than it has been

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 26 September 2017 15:40 BST
Theresa May meets Donald Tusk for Brexit talks,

European Council President Donald Tusk has said there is not yet “sufficient progress” in Brexit talks to discuss future trading relations with the UK.

After meeting Theresa May in Downing Street, he said there were signs the UK now had a more “realistic” position and that the Prime Minister appears to have abandoned a “having her cake and eating it” approach to Brexit.

But he said he would tell member states there has still not been enough progress towards the EU’s objectives to allow negotiations to move to discussing the future trade deal the UK desires.

It follows the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence, in which she proposed a Brexit transition period of two years during which the UK would pay into EU coffers and remain in the single market and customs union.

British officials hoped the speech would help to break a deadlock in talks and mean discussion could move on to future relations.

But at the start of the fourth round of Brexit talks on Monday, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK would have to give a stronger commitment on settling its financial obligations to the EU, before any transition was discussed.

Leaving No 10, Mr Tusk backed Mr Barnier, saying: “If you ask me, and if today member states ask me, I would say there is no sufficient progress yet, but we will work on it.”

EU officials had been annoyed by suggestions from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the UK could “have its cake and eat it” on Brexit, or have the benefits of the EU without the obligations, but Mr Tusk said that approach appears now to have ended.

He added: “The constructive and more realistic tone in the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence and of our discussion today ... shows that the philosophy of having her cake and eating it [is] finally coming at and end – at least I hope so.

“That’s good news, but of course no one will ever tell me that Brexit is a good thing, because as I have always said in fact Brexit is all about damage control. I didn’t change my opinion.”

An EU source told The Independent the talks at No 10 had touched upon all of the objectives that Brussels wants met – the UK’s financial obligations, Ireland and EU citizens’ rights – before talks progress to future trade.

A No 10 spokesman said the meeting started with the Prime Minister restating her wish for “a bold and unique new economic partnership”.

The spokesman added: “The PM also stressed the importance of agreeing a period of implementation once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. She said this would build a bridge to that new relationship that ensures the process is smooth and orderly and creates as much certainty as possible for everyone.

“At the end of the meeting, the PM said her Florence speech had been intended to create momentum in the ongoing talks. She said it was important for EU negotiators to now respond in the same spirit.”

On Tuesday Brexit Secretary David Davis travelled to the Netherlands to meet Foreign Minister Bert Koenders. He will arrive back in Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the body's negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.

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