Theresa May to publish five new Brexit papers amid fears of trade talks delay

'With the clock ticking, it wouldn’t be in either of our interest to run aspects of the negotiations twice,' says the Brexit Secretary, David Davis

The PM admitted this week there is still 'a lot to be done' in the arduous negotiations with Brussels
The PM admitted this week there is still 'a lot to be done' in the arduous negotiations with Brussels

Theresa May is to unveil five new Brexit negotiating position papers in the coming days amid reports that cabinet ministers privately fear a decision on progressing on to trade talks with the European Union could be delayed until Christmas.

In her first full week back in Downing Street following her three-week holiday, the Prime Minister will release formal papers on key elements of the talks, including the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), data protection, and goods and services after Brexit.

It comes just one week before David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, heads to Brussels for the next formal round of negotiations. But due to a lack of progress made so far and the Government’s failure to publish any formal positions on two key demands from European negotiators – on citizens’ rights and the financial settlement – cabinet ministers are concerned the EU 27 could delay a decision on whether to progress to negotiating a future trade deal by two months.

Ahead of the publication of the documents, Mr Davis said his department would be “putting forward imaginative and creative solutions to build a deep and special partnership with our closest neighbours and allies”.

“In the coming days we will demonstrate our thinking even further, with five new papers – all part of our work to drive the talks forward, and make sure we can show beyond doubt that we have made sufficient progress on withdrawal issues by October so that we can move on to discuss our future relationship.

“With the clock ticking, it wouldn’t be in either of our interest to run aspects of the negotiations twice,” the Brexit Secretary added.

But Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat’s Brexit spokesperson, said it had “finally dawned” on ministers that Britain is “careering towards the edge of an economic precipice”.

“Hence the Government’s desperation to move on to discussing our future relationship with the EU,” he added. “But with EU citizens still uncertain about their families’ futures in the UK, a huge question mark over the Irish border and no movement on the settlement bill, the UK Government’s pleas are going to fall on deaf ears.”

Following the release of the customs union position paper last week – detailing Britain’s plan for “frictionless as possible” trade after Brexit – the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, described the blueprint as a “fantasy”.

Mr Verhofstadt told The Independent last month that while the European Council and Michel Barnier, the EU’s top negotiator, will ultimately decide when to kick-start the trade talks with Britain, MEPs will also provide an assessment to Mr Barnier through a resolution on whether “sufficient progress” has been made in Brussels.

Speaking earlier this week, Ms May admitted there is still “a lot to be done” in the arduous negotiations with Brussels in the coming months but failed to quash reports of a potential delay to the next phase of the talks. It has been suggested that the German election, scheduled for September, could put the Brexit talks on stand-by for two months.

“There’s a lot to be done, as a Government we’ve shown the work we are putting into this,” the Prime Minister added. “We’ve published recently just in the last few days a number of papers that set out our thinking on some of those key issues for the future relationship.”

“We will develop a deep and special partnership with the European Union for the future that’s good for the UK and good for the EU as well.”

It comes following reports that Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, is lobbying his colleagues in the Cabinet to strike future trade deals without the approval of the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

According to The Times, Mr Fox has written to the Cabinet, setting out four options for the devolved governments’ roles in negotiating free trade agreements after Brexit, including making trade a reserved matter for the UK Government – a proposal that will likely infuriate the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

But a spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said they “will not be giving a running commentary on possible future trade policy”.

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