Jean-Claude Juncker today fuelled the growing Brexit row by insisting the UK will ‘have to pay’ billions of pounds more to get trade talks – likening the situation to buying a round of ‘beers’ for the EU.
The EU commission president risked inflaming tensions by dismissing the prospect of negotiations progressing soon, warning that Brexit would take much longer than the UK thinks.
He told a press conference: ‘If you go to the pub and you order 28 beers, then you have to pay.’
The intervention appears to pour cold water on signs of a breakthrough, after it emerged last night that EU leaders could give the green light for internal preparations for a trade deal.
A draft document for next week’s critical summit in Brussels suggests they want Eurocrats to end the ‘disturbing’ stalemate in Brexit talks by loosening their rigid rules.
Jean-Claude Juncker today fuelled the growing Brexit row by insisting the UK will ‘have to pay’ billions of pounds more to get trade talks
The breakthrough follows pleas by Brexit Secretary David Davis (left) and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (right)
Theresa May has repeatedly said the UK will refrain from finalising the controversial ‘divorce bill’ unless Brussels opens up talks.
Leaked documents last night revealed that the EU is finally willing to make the move at a European Council summit next week.
They state that officials will allow Mr Barnier and his team to start ‘internal preparatory discussions’ on a post-Brexit transition period and trading relationship.
While falling short of the full trade talks with Britain that Downing Street previously hoped would be opened, the development will still be seen as a breakthrough by Ministers in London.
Mr Davis and Mr Barnier yesterday separately called for EU leaders to accept concessions made by Mrs May and show leeway in order for trade talks to begin.
After the latest round of Brexit talks ended frustratingly for both sides yesterday, Mr Davis warned that changing the scope of talks was now ‘in the interests of Europe and the United Kingdom’.
Mr Davis and Mr Barnier yesterday separately called for EU leaders to accept concessions made by Mrs May and show leeway in order for trade talks to begin
The Brexit Secretary’s call was unusually echoed by his EU counterpart, who bemoaned the state of ‘deadlock’ in what British officials described as ‘an elegant cry for help’.
In a pointed message aimed at Germany and France, Mr Barnier said that a breakthrough is ‘within our grasp’ if the EU’s leading powers show the ‘political will’.
Both Berlin and Paris have insisted that Mrs May must offer more rigid guarantees that the UK will pay off a share of the EU’s debt as part of its ‘divorce bill’ before discussing a future deal.
Mr Barnier has emerged as a surprise ally to the UK, calling for EU leaders to give him the go-ahead to start talks on a post-Brexit transition deal following concessions made by the Prime Minister.
Speaking yesterday, he said: ‘Slowly but surely over the next few weeks I will explore the way forward. I will explore ways to get out of this deadlock we find ourselves in.
‘I am sure that with the necessary will and on the basis of the commitments entered into by Theresa May in Florence we can find a way out.’
He added: ‘I’ve been saying since [Mrs May’s] Florence speech that there is a new momentum.
‘I remain convinced today that with political will, decisive progress is within our grasp in the next two months.’
Mr Barnier wants the go-ahead to start talks on a post-Brexit transition deal following concessions made by the Prime Minister (pictured at the Royal Liverpool Hospital yesterday)
Responding to the UK’s decision to talk up the possibility of a ‘no deal’ scenario this week, Mr Barnier said: ‘No deal will be a very bad deal.
‘To be clear, on our side, we will be ready to face any eventualities, and all the eventualities.’
Despite no major breakthroughs on crucial issues such as the future role of the European Court of Justice and the Northern Ireland border, Mrs May yesterday hailed the ‘good progress’ that has been made.
‘Michel Barnier himself has recognised that over the coming weeks we will be able to make constructive progress as well,’ she said.
‘[We] also want to ensure that we get onto that business of talking about the future relationship, the future partnership we’re going to have with the EU.’
The call to start trade talks is contained in draft conclusions for next week’s summit composed by European Council President Donald Tusk.
The call to start trade talks is contained in draft conclusions for next week’s summit composed by European Council President Donald Tusk
The European Council document, which could be further refined, notes the ‘welcome progress’ on talks surrounding EU citizens’ rights after Brexit and welcomes the UK’s ‘commitment’ to pay a share of the bill.
EU leaders attending the European Council meeting in Brussels next week are expected to say there has not been ‘sufficient progress’ in talks.
Full trade talks between both sides are unlikely to be granted before a follow-up European Council summit in December.
Hinting at the need for breakthrough, Mr Davis said yesterday: ‘Clearly we would like them to give Michel the means to broaden the negotiations.
‘I think they should do it, it’s in the interests of Europe and the United Kingdom that they do.’
The Brexit Secretary also repeated his stance that the UK will refuse to discuss the specifics of the multi-billion pound Brexit bill until trade talks are opened up.
A UK official close to talks said yesterday: ‘It’s their [EU leaders’] choice whether to give Barnier the wiggle room to move things forward.’
Mr Davis expressed frustration at how the negotiating mandate drawn up by the EU’s 27 remaining member states was restricting progress on a key negotiating point.
In September his team offered an indefinite right to return for the 3.5million citizens living in the UK in the hope that the EU would offer British citizens abroad a similar right to live across Europe.
Hinting at his irritation yesterday, he said: ‘We look forward to hearing the European Union’s response to this.’