Brexit talks could stall for a further two months the EU revealed today, undermining Theresa May’s claim she had moved the negotiations forward.
European Council President Donald Tusk announced this afternoon he hoped the preliminary stage of the talks would be completed by December.
The original timetable planned for the negotiations on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Northern Ireland border to reach “sufficient progress” by the end of the October round of talks, taking place this week.
May claimed on Monday afternoon her speech in Florence had helped move the talks on, but speaking 24 hours later Tusk delivered a sobering assessment of the state of the negotiations.
He also addressed the Government’s publication of two white papers on trade and customs that set out what would happen if no deal between the UK and the EU was struck.
Speaking in Brussels, he said: “We hear from London that the UK government is preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario.
“I would like to say very clearly that the EU is not working on such a scenario.
“We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called ‘sufficient progress’ will be possible by December.
“However, if it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that ‘sufficient progress’ hasn’t been reached, then - together with our UK friends - we will have to think about where we are heading.”
May sought tried to orchestrate a breakthrough in the talks with her Florence speech on September 22 – vowing that the UK would stump up all the cash it had committed to for projects set to take place after Brexit in March 2019.
In a further concession, May yesterday admitted the UK could still be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after March 2019 in a transition period, having previously ruled out such a scenario.
Yet it seems May’s softening of her red lines have done little to move the talks along.
UK civil servants are currently in Brussels locked in talks with their EU equivalents, while Brexit Secretary David Davis today had lunch with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
After the meal, Barnier was asked about May’s claim the ball is now in the EU’s court.
“We are working. Brexit is not a game. Don’t forget it,” reported The Guardian.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU said: “As the PM said yesterday, we have made real and tangible progress in a number of vital areas and we are looking for the negotiating teams to reach full agreement quickly.
“We are approaching these negotiations in a constructive way and in a spirit of friendship and cooperation.
“We want a deep and special partnership and believe it is everyone’s interest to discuss this as soon as possible. We are optimistic about achieving this, but it is the duty of a responsible government to plan for all scenarios.”