BRITAIN and the European Union are set to resume Brexit negotiations next week after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May broke the stalemate in the hope that the real arguments can now begin.
In a major speech on Friday that drew guarded praise from Brussels, May signaled for the first time that she’ll be ready to discuss the amount of money the U.K. will owe to the EU when it departs the bloc in 2019. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party offered a skeptical response.
May’s goal is the opportunity to push talks nearer to the future trading relationship between the U.K. and the EU, and her offer is a two-year transition phase. The coming round of negotiations will test May’s ability to keep both the EU and her own euro-skeptic Conservatives on side.
“Theresa May’s offer on the divorce bill was probably more generous than anticipated, by hinting at an inclusion of historic liabilities as well as current budget commitment,” said Mats Persson, head of international trade at EY and a former adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. “We’re now in the landing zone of the ‘significant progress,”’ he said.
That’s what EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is looking for: progress on the issue of money, citizens’ rights and the Irish border. May gave her most detailed road-map yet for the divorce in a speech in Florence. In it, she said Britain will pay to smooth its departure from the bloc until the end of the current EU budget in December 2020.
That buys her some time.