Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move.
As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next move in the stalled negotiations over Britain's departure from the bloc.
Theresa May told the British parliament on Monday that a new agreement "will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU," adding that "the ball is in their court."
Key points from the speech:
- Britain will not be a member of EU institutions during the two-year "implementation" period after it leaves the union on March 29, 2019, but it will retain access to the EU single market until the implementation period is over.
- Both sides can only resolve the problem of how much Britain owes the EU if they consider the future EU-UK relationship after the implementation period.
- Britain will not revoke Article 50, which would stop the Brexit talks and keep Britain in the EU.
- Government ministries have been preparing "for every eventuality," a hint that Britain could accept leaving the EU without a deal.
But before May had given the speech, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had told reporters in Brussels that "there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings."
"So the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen," he said.
Phase one troubles
The EU has repeatedly said that both sides can only discuss a new partnership agreement – which is expected to include a new EU-UK trade deal – after "sufficient progress" had been made on Britain's exit from the union.
The first four rounds of negotiations have so far focused on three major exit issues:
- How much Britain owes the EU
- The status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
- The rights of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU after Brexit
British leaders have criticized the EU for demanding a strict division in the talks, saying agreements on specific exit issues depend on whether both sides can agree on the terms of the post-exit partnership. But EU leaders have so far resisted that call.
Initial plans to complete phase one by mid-October have looked increasingly unrealistic after talks during the summer failed to achieve much progress.
The will to compromise
Both sides have indicated they may compromise to avoid Britain exiting the EU without any final deal.
May said in a speech in Florence, Italy in September that Britain would agree to abide by EU rules and pay into the common budget for two years after Brexit in March 2019.
She also said London would pay any outstanding amount it owed to Brussels, but did not say how much she thought the bill should be. Both sides have clashed on how to calculate the final exit bill.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called on Britain and the EU to be flexible, saying "this will never be a 100 percent win for one side or the other side. This will be a political compromise."
All eyes on Brussels
EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a summit on October 19-20 wherethey will formally decide whether "sufficient progress" has been made to open up phase two negotiations.
With six months of the two-year negotiating period already up, officials and business leaders have become increasingly worried that both sides may not agree to a final deal in time.
May, however, struck a confident tone during her speech on Monday, telling MPs: "I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong."
amp/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)