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UK’s Brexit bubble spells domestic gridlock

The UK government has spent the past two-and-a-half years in a bubble that has left it paralytic and unable to tackle the domestic problems that haven't magically disappeared into the Brexit vortex. Rob Mudge reports. Given the government's fixation on Brexit, it's almost a surprise the country hasn't come to a standstill. But how long can the government get away with this form of escapism? Emily Andrews, associate director at the Institute for Government in London, a think tank that explores the key challenges facing the government, says the lack of progress is and isn't because of Brexit. "I think we've reached the point where a lot of this is now directly Brexit related. And since the general election [in 2017] the domestic agenda has been really stymied by the fact that the Conservatives are only in a minority government and by the fact that the Cabinet is very divided. Theresa May hasn't had the authority to push forward a united vision for domestic policy." But as Brexit reaches its potential endgame, it's not just the focus that has shifted. "In terms of civil servants we've got loads more people being moved across to think about a no deal [Brexit]," Andrews told DW. And those personnel gaps mean that very often other important policy issues are being dealt with in a cursory manner at best. What's happened to social care? One of the key areas that has ended up on the back burner is social care. A so-called green paper was originally due to be published in autumn 2017. Since then it's been put off repeatedly. Regardless of Brexit, there is no ideal time to deal with such a crucial issue, said Andrews. "Politically, it's a toxic question of how to fund social care in a sustainable manner. Whereas there's been a rise in National Health Service spending, funding for social care has fallen." Indeed, the issue caused problems for the Conservatives at the last election when the opposition accused them of proposing a "dementia tax." The Conservative Party's manifesto at the time set out plans for more pensioners to contribute to the cost of their care. The elderly would have to pay for their own care if their combined savings and property amounted to more than £100,000 (€114,000, $130,000). Under the proposal, people would be forced to sell their homes to pay. The plans were dubbed a "dementia tax" because people with dementia living at home would be forced to pay while people with cancer in hospital would not. Since then there's been little movement. While that can be put down partly to standard political prevarication, the focus on Brexit has stalled any meaningful progress. "Now Brexit is totally in the way and I've got no idea when are we going to have this national conversation about how we fund social care and what that means is that we're probably going to keep seeing this emergency cash being pumped in," said Andrews. Neglecting public services Trying to make public services efficient and cost-effective is difficult at the best of times. In 2010 the coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats presented a plan to cut costs, spend frugally and provide public services that actually work. And for a while, this less-is-more approach paid off, albeit with a caveat. "They didn't do that by making the services cheaper to run. They held down public sector wages through a freeze and then a pay cut. And they cut staff numbers and asked existing staff to do more," said Andrews Now, with Brexit casting its long shadow, neglect to tackle those areas could backfire badly. "It means that public services are going to limp forward and people will notice that. People want better employment, better access to housing, better access to public services. And people are looking for answers to those questions." No progress on 'burning injustices' And they've been looking for a good while. When Theresa May became prime minister in 2016, she stood outside 10 Downing Street and pledged to tackle the country's "burning injustices." But her track record does not reflect her holistic approach. Reductions in public health spending have made access to addiction services much harder, not to mention mental health service reductions. Homelessness has gone up which means more and more people are forced to sleep rough. Another major disappointment is the lack of tangible progress on one her key promises. "One of her big things was a pledge to draw up new legislation to support survivors and victims of domestic abuse. There is now a draft bill, but it hasn't actually been introduced in parliament. And we know of other bills that are just sitting there. There's one that's sat there for two years," said Andrews. Inertia coupled with a lack of transparency are proving to be a major predicament for the government and the country. Getting anything other than Brexit onto the legislative timetable is proving difficult, if not impossible. "And so actually passing any new laws is going to be difficult. And in reality, we don't know what the civil servants who have been moved on to no-deal preparations have been doing beforehand. We don't know what programs have been paused or cancelled precisely in order for the people who are working on them to go and do other things. The government hasn't been transparent about it," said Andrews.

The UK government has spent the past two-and-a-half years in a bubble that has left it paralytic and unable to tackle the domestic problems that haven’t magically disappeared into the Brexit vortex. Rob Mudge reports. Given the government’s fixation on Brexit, it’s almost a surprise the country hasn’t come to a standstill. But how long can the government get away ... Read More »

Brexit: Britain’s Theresa May holds pre-summit talks

British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold talks with key EU leaders ahead of a summit to endorse her Brexit deal. But resistance at home and abroad continues to dog negotiations. British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold last-minute talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk on the eve of an EU summit that could still be blocked by Spanish objections to her deal on Britain's withdrawal from the bloc. Spain has threatened to veto the deal unless the wording is changed to give Madrid guarantees that it alone can decide on the future of the disputed territory of Gibraltar in direct talks with London. May hopes nonetheless to leave Brussels on Sunday with the terms of British withdrawal on March 29 and a comprehensive concept for future Britain-EU relations settled with the bloc. Northern Irish opposition The British premier is, however, also facing opposition closer to home, with the Democratic Union Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, whose support is vital to her government, holding a conference on Saturday. The right-wing and "Christian fundamentalist" DUP, which is in favor of Brtish rule in Northern Ireland, believes that the deal's backstop provision to ensure an open border on the island of Ireland will give the province a different economic status compared with the mainland. This, it fears, could increase the chances of Irish unification, which it vigorously rejects. Getting the DUP on board will be highly important to May if the deal is to be passed by the British Parliament, where May's Conservative Party only has a minority. The Conservatives have a "confidence-and-supply" arrangement with the DUP's 10 members of parliament, allowing them an effective majority. No-deal warning The expected presence of Britain's finance minister, Philip Hammond, at Saturday's conference underlines the central role the highly conservative party now plays. Hammond on Saturday reiterated his support for May's draft deal on Saturday, telling broadcaster BBC that it was "a way of Britain leaving the European Union ... with minimum negative impact on our economy." At the same time, he warned that no deal would mean "very serious" consequences in the future for the economy, jobs and prosperity. The conference will also be attended by former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a vehement critic of the deal, and Fabian Picardo, the chief minister of Gibraltar.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold talks with key EU leaders ahead of a summit to endorse her Brexit deal. But resistance at home and abroad continues to dog negotiations. British Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold last-minute talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk on the eve of an EU ... Read More »

UK leadership challenge: How does it work?

A slew of ministerial resignations over the draft UK-EU Brexit deal has put even more pressure on embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Is a leadership challenge on the cards? British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to save her draft Brexit deal Thursday. After several high-profile resignations from her Cabinet, she could now face a fight to save her premiership if a leadership challenge is called. What needs to happen? A challenge can be triggered if 15 percent of the Conservative MPs write a letter to the chairman of the influential "1922 Committee" [the parliamentary group of all backbench Conservative lawmakers] demanding a vote of confidence in the leader. The party currently has 315 MPs, so 48 would need to submit such letters. Have any done so already? Leading euroskeptic Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted his letter of no confidence on Thursday. "It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation," he wrote. Although lawmakers do not have to reveal their intentions, a total of 14 MPs have publicly confirmed they have sent their letter. Others may have also already done so privately. Only the chair of the committee, Graham Brady, knows the exact number. What happens during a confidence vote? Once the required number of no confidence letters is reached, Brady would announce a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. All Conservative MPs can vote, either in favor of or against the leader staying on. May would need a simple majority to win. That would currently mean 158 votes. What happens next? In the event of a victory, she remains in office and gets immunity from another formal challenge for a year. If she loses she has to resign and is barred from standing in the ensuing leadership election. Her successor would also become prime minister. A general election would not automatically be triggered.

A slew of ministerial resignations over the draft UK-EU Brexit deal has put even more pressure on embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Is a leadership challenge on the cards? British Prime Minister Theresa May battled to save her draft Brexit deal Thursday. After several high-profile resignations from her Cabinet, she could now face a fight to save her premiership ... Read More »

EU leaders formally approve second Brexit phase

The EU has given the formal green light for a second phase of negotiations on Britain's departure from the bloc. The talks will now focus on a transition period and the future trading relationship between the two sides. EU leaders meeting in Brussels said on Friday that the way was clear for the opening of the second phase of Brexit negotiations with the UK. European Council Donald Tusk announced the agreement on Twitter, at the same time congratulating British Prime Minister Theresa May on having brought the divorce settlement negotiations thus far. "As for the framework for future relations, it is now time for internal EU 27 preparations and exploratory contacts with the UK to get more clarity on their vision," Tusk later said, referring to the 27 EU member states that will remain after Britain's departure. Friday's approval gives May a welcome success after she lost a parliamentary vote over giving lawmakers the ultimate say on the final Brexit deal. She showed her gratitude in a tweet that thanked the EU for "an important step" toward a "smooth and orderly Brexit." Even harder second phase? However, Friday's approval appears to be just one of many hurdles to be taken before Brexit occurs, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling a press conference following the summit that even more difficult work lay ahead. "We have taken a good step forward. The second phase can begin — but with that, an even harder piece of work begins than what we had so far," she said, adding that the other EU nations had preserved their unity "wonderfully" up to now in the Brexit negotiations. At the press conference, French President Emmanuel Macron also emphasized the way the EU 27 had held together. "We were able to maintain the 27's unity, the integrity of the single market and the respect of common rules," he said, adding that the same principles would remain in the next phase of talks. Thorny issues The two sides agreed last week that enough progress had been made on key issues for negotiations to progress. Those issues included the payment Britain must make to the bloc upon departure for its non-fulfillment of obligations, keeping the border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland open and protecting the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and vice versa. Britain is planning to leave the EU in March 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday that real negotiations on the second phase of Brexit talks would start in March 2018. Continued division over migration The EU summit in Brussels, which ends on Friday, has also seen the east-west divide over migration to the bloc continue, with eastern states remaining firm in their stance against refugee redistribution quotas that have been agreed to by a majority of member nations. The quotas are seen as a measure of assistance to countries such as Greece and Italy, which have seen most of the migrants come to their shores over the Mediterranean. The EU is seeking to reform its policy on asylum before an expected renewed influx of migrants and refugees in summer next year when weather improves to allow safer voyages across the Mediterranean from Africa. Strengthening external borders However, the four eastern European countries making up the so-called Visegrad group — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — were fully behind an EU project aimed at enhancing border protection in Libya, which has now become the main launchpad for migrants and refugees wanting to come to Europe. They offered €35 million ($41 million) to assist the Italian-led project in a move meant to demonstrate that they are actively working on solutions to the migration issue. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that the EU's policy of defending its outer borders was the one that had "worked and operated well on the ground, delivered the result we have expected." The summit has also approved an extension to economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as the establishment of a joint European defense force.

The EU has given the formal green light for a second phase of negotiations on Britain’s departure from the bloc. The talks will now focus on a transition period and the future trading relationship between the two sides. EU leaders meeting in Brussels said on Friday that the way was clear for the opening of the second phase of Brexit ... Read More »

Britain must avoid ‘fatal’ hard Brexit, European business leaders warn

برطانیہ کے یورپی یونین سے اخراج کے نگران وزیر ڈیوڈ ڈیوس نے کہا ہے کہ لندن میں ملکی حکومت برٹش پارلیمان کو یہ موقع دے گی کہ وہ بریگزٹ کے حتمی معاہدے پر ووٹنگ کر سکے۔ انہوں نے پیر کی شام پارلیمنٹ سے خطاب میں کہا کہ عوامی نمائندوں کو یہ موقع ملے گا کہ وہ بریگزٹ کے حتمی معاہدے پر بحث کرتے ہوئے اس کا تنقیدی جائزہ لے سکیں اور اس پر رائے شماری بھی ہو سکے۔ لندن حکومت کا یہ اقدام حکمران قدامت پسند پارٹی کے بریگزٹ کے حوالے سے باغی ارکان کو بظاہر کچھ رعایت دینے کی کوشش ہے۔

Theresa May has met European business leaders, who warned that a ‘no deal Brexit’ would be catastrophic. Fifteen business groups were in London to seek reassurance over the future of UK-EU trade. A hard Brexit would be “fatal” for industry, a group of leading European business representatives have warned Theresa May during talks in London on Monday. They urged the ... Read More »

Brexit: Dinner leaks, Twitter spats and a plea for certainty

As aides and reporters battled on Twitter over leaks from a Brexit dinner between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU's Jean-Claude Juncker, British business lobbies called on their government to provide clarity. The European Commission on Monday denied an account of a Brussels dinner last week during which May and Juncker discussed Brexit negotiations. Juncker's head of cabinet, German lawyer Martin Selmayr, took to Twitter to deny the leaking of the details which were was published in Germany's Frankfurt Allgemeine (FAZ) newspaper. According to the FAZ, May was "begging for help" from Juncker, who described her to colleagues as being anxious, despondent and discouraged. Read more: Brexit diary 11: Brexit body language "It's an attempt to frame the EU side and to undermine talks," Selmayr said of the leaked report controversy. Selmayr was responding to an allegation from May's former chief-of-staff, Nick Timothy, also via Twitter, that he was behind the leak. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas repeated the denial. "We have lots of work and no time for gossip." He declined to say who might wish the Commission ill but added that Juncker would "never have said something like this." Earlier this year similar reports concerning a Downing Street dinner emerged in the same German newspaper. Slow progress on Brexit talks has stoked fears the UK could leave the EU in March 2019 without a deal in place. EU leaders agreed on Friday to include the bloc's future relationship with Britain in negotiations among themselves over the coming months. Businesses: We have to plan As officials bickered via social media, UK business leaders were preparing to call for reassurance. In a draft letter to Brexit Secretary David Davis, five leading business groups called for the economic relationship between Britain and the bloc to be "as close as possible to the status quo" during a two-year transition period for the country's move out of the EU. Read more: Brexit: What's the 'no deal' fallout for the UK and EU? "Agreement (on a transition) is needed as soon as possible, as companies are preparing to make serious decisions at the start of 2018, which will have consequences for jobs and investment in the UK," said the letter from the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, manufacturing trade body EEF, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses.

As aides and reporters battled on Twitter over leaks from a Brexit dinner between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker, British business lobbies called on their government to provide clarity. The European Commission on Monday denied an account of a Brussels dinner last week during which May and Juncker discussed Brexit negotiations. Juncker’s head of cabinet, ... Read More »

EU leaders disagree on Brexit progress at summit

Theresa May has not left Brussels empty-handed, but at the end of a two-day EU summit, the bloc still lacks "all the details we need." EU leaders remained at odds on some internal reforms, as well. The EU summit wrapped up Friday evening on a warmer, if still uncertain, note about the state of negotiations between the United Kingdom and the 27 remaining member nations. The bloc agreed to take up internal discussions on the future of a UK-EU relationship, though it pushed talks between the divorcing partners until after December, at the earliest. EU leaders also discussed the bloc's priorities beyond Brexit. Read more: Opinion: Trouble brewing in every corner of Europe Some progress, not enough On the second day of the two-day summit, European Council President Donald Tusk said that the so-called EU-27 had agreed to start preparatory talks between the remaining EU member states on a possible future relationship with Britain. He cast aside rumors that Brexit negotiations had come to a standstill, while admitting that work was still needed in key areas. "My impression is that reports of the deadlock between the European Union and the UK have been exaggerated, and while progress has not been sufficient, it does not mean there is no progress at all," Tusk said. The EU says that "sufficient progress" needs to be made in three key areas — citizens' rights, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and a financial settlement — before talks with Britain can move into phrase two and discuss the post-Brexit economic relationship. "We have some details, but we do not have all the details we need," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on Friday. British Prime Minister Theresa May met Friday morning with European Council President Donald Tusk and later with other EU leaders before leaving the remaining 27 leaders to discuss internal Brexit matters. May, who faces domestic political devisions, has been pushing for talks on the UK's future relationship with the EU. In a dinner speech on Thursday evening, she issued an impassioned plea for negotiations to turn to the future relationship. Before departing, May told reporters she had pledged that Britain would honor its commitments to the EU on Brexit and that other countries would not lose out in the current budget plan. However, she declined to say whether she had offered EU leaders a higher financial settlement, instead repeating that the divorce bill's total must wait. "The full and final settlement will come as part of the final agreement that we're getting in relation to the future partnership," May said. According to DW's Georg Matthes, May appeared at least a little encouraged by the Brussels proceedings as she headed back to London Friday morning. Opinions from the 27 In a Friday press conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her opinion on May's recent announced that the UK would institute a two-year transition period after the March 2019 exit date, calling it an "interesting idea," but saying it could only be addressed later on. The chancellor confirmed that the leaders hoped they could decide to take up Phase 2 of Brexit talks in December, but that this depended on how Britain moved on the financial settlement with the EU. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen appeared to share Merkel's careful optimism in comments he made on Friday. "We need [May] and the British negotiators to move this into the negotiation room. And hopefully we will soon have made sufficient progress that we can continue into the next phase. And I think that's what we all hope for," Rasmussen told journalists including DW's EU correspondent Georg Matthes. Read more: Brexit Diaries 14: Boris Johnson rocks the boat But not all European heads headed home with the same shared Merkel's cautiously optimistic assessment. French President Emmanuel Macron said that "there is a lot of work left to do" to lay out Britain's departure from the EU. "We have not gone even halfway down the road," he said. Tax, Iran and Turkey EU leaders also spent time discussing other critical issues for the bloc including tax, security and migration policy. Macron has made a strong push to reform the bloc. One of his more contested proposals is to make giant tech companies such as Google and Facebook pay taxes where they make profits so as to avoid tax havens. However, he received pushback from smaller EU states such as Ireland and Luxembourg, which benefit from the companies' presence in their countries, and who argued that the issue should be approached globally. Also discussed was US President Donald Trump's opposition to the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran. The EU leaders reached unanimous agreement to support the accord as a means of bolstering global peace and allowing renewed trade with Iran, a long-time trading partner of European countries. The leaders also agreed on wanting to maintain "full control" of the EU's exterior borders in the face of global migration and agreed on the need to oversee migration routes, fight human trafficking and undertake more deportations. The EU states' heads also agreed to maintain the migration deal with Turkey that has been in place since spring 2016. At the same time, the group examined whether and how to cut pre-accession finances to the neighbor nation over alleged human rights abuses and aggressive rhetoric towards Europe.

Theresa May has not left Brussels empty-handed, but at the end of a two-day EU summit, the bloc still lacks “all the details we need.” EU leaders remained at odds on some internal reforms, as well. The EU summit wrapped up Friday evening on a warmer, if still uncertain, note about the state of negotiations between the United Kingdom and ... Read More »

UK PM Theresa May: Citizens’ rights ‘first priority’ as she heads to Brussels

May has sought to reassure EU citizens on their post-Brexit future. Her letter came as the EU and the UK are desperately seeking a breakthrough in talks — though some in May's team are calling for the UK to crash out. Ahead of her trip to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May published an open letter Thursday on her Facebook page seeking to reassure the some 3 million European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom that they will be able to remain there post-Brexit. Read more:Brexit - what's the 'no deal' fallout? "EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay," she said, also writing that the UK wanted them to remain. She added that the country would develop a digital process for EU residents to apply for "settled status" — a post-Brexit category for EU citizens who have lived continuously in the UK for five years before a yet-to-be-determined cut-off date and who wish to remain. However she did not provide more on detail on the criteria surrounding how the government would calculate continued residency. The ability for settled status individuals to bring family members to the UK was also not addressed. Agreement is but weeks away… In her letter, May wrote that her government and the EU were in "touching distance of agreement" on the rights that EU and UK citizens would have once the UK leaves the bloc in May 2019. In addition to residency rights, May said the upcoming agreement would also touch on how health care, pensions and other benefits would work for both EU and UK nationals living in one another's respective territories. Some one million UK nationals live across the EU's 27 member states. The EU has regarded May's prior assurances on citizens' rights until now as unsatisfactory. In addition, she has been accused of using EU citizens as "bargaining chips," a criticism which she sought to deflect in her open letter. "I have been clear throughout this process that citizens' rights are my first priority, May wrote in her letter. "And I know my fellow leaders have the same objective: to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. Her letter came the same day she was heading to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit talks. Both the UK and the EU will be looking to make progress after negotiations stalled during the previous meeting. If citizens' rights do become the focus of Thursday's sixth round of negotiations, it would mark a retreat away from the UK's insistence on working on the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU. The 27-member bloc had stated that "sufficient progress" needed to be achieved on the rights of citizens, as well as the UK border with Ireland and the financial commitment of the UK, before proceeding to other areas. To crash or not to crash? In an interview with German daily Die Welt, lead UK Brexit negotiator David Davis said he believed that the UK had fulfilled its promises thus far. "We think we made progress," he said, but then pointed out it was in the European Council's power to decide if this was true or not. David added that Britain would meet its financial "international obligations" but that a judgement on how much the UK owes to the EU "should be informed by everything, informed by the whole deal, not informed by a figure picked out of the air." The British government at times has struggled to give an appearance of unity in negotiations. On the same day as May's Brussels highly anticipated trip, leader of Britain's parliamentary opposition Andrea Leadsom said that the body would not discuss the EU withdrawal bill before representatives left for their autumn recess next week. She told lawmakers, "There is nothing odd or anything to fear from this slight pause." The legislation, known as the Great Repeal Bill, would transpose much of EU law onto British books in order to ensure as seamless a transition as possible. However, concern has been growing that political divisions over its content could complicate May's ability to complete a negotiated Brexit. In addition, fears have been voiced on both the EU and the UK side that if an agreement is not reached shortly with enough time to set up its implementation, then the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal come March 2019. Some politicians from May's conservative party, including former Treasury head Nigel Lawsom ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, have also urged May to turn her back on the negotiation table if a breakthough does not materialize. In his Die Welt interview, Davis said that a no-deal outcome was neither the UK's intention nor very probable. "I think it is a very distant possibility," he said. "That being said, we have to prepare for it." When pressed by the interviewer to clarify who one should call when one wants to understand the UK's position, Davis replied cheekily. "You want my number?"

May has sought to reassure EU citizens on their post-Brexit future. Her letter came as the EU and the UK are desperately seeking a breakthrough in talks — though some in May’s team are calling for the UK to crash out. Ahead of her trip to Brussels to take part in the next round of Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom’s ... Read More »

Brexit talks: EU, Britain say ball is in the other’s court

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 eventually," 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 has 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."

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 ... Read More »

EU lawmakers slam lack of Brexit progress, putting trade talks out of reach

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London's hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations to proceed to the next level. The text says that "sufficient progress has not yet been made" in areas including the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, Irish relations and financial obligations to the EU. It was approved by a vote of 557 to 92 with 29 abstentions, with all major groupings in the European Parliament backing the resolution. Two British Conservative MEPs supported the motion. Read more: What does the German election mean for Brexit? Speaking at the plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that there although the negotiation mood improved following British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in Florence last month, "serious differences" remained — particularly concerning Britain's divorce bill from the EU. Barnier also rejected accusations from euroskeptic British MEPs that the EU was attempting to hold the UK ransom in the talks. "There is no ransom, no exit bill, there is only the fact that when you decide to leave we ask you to settle your accounts — no more, no less than to pay what you agreed," Barnier said. Read more: 'Miracles' needed to advance Brexit talks by October deadline 'Please sack Johnson' Manfred Weber, the head of the largest group in the European Parliament said that divisions in May's cabinet were blocking Brexit negotiations. "The top question I think for the moment is: Who shall I call in London? Who speaks for the government — Theresa May, Boris Johnson, or even [Brexit Minister] David Davis?" asked Weber, a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the head of the center-right European People's Party alliance in the European Parliament. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Minister David Davis, both advocates of "leave" during the Brexit referendum, have sometimes appeared to contradict May's take on some aspects of Brexit. "Please sack Johnson, because we need a clear answer on who is responsible for the British position," Weber urged. "Theresa May, please don't put the party first — please put Britain first, please put the citizens first." Trade talks stalled Although Tuesday's vote was not binding, it reflected EU lawmakers' current mood after four rounds of Brexit talks. The European Parliament will have to approve any final separation deal, currently due for March 2019, or possibly at a later point during a transitional period leaving the EU. The fifth round of talks is due to start next week, but lawmakers said that "unless there is a major breakthrough," EU leaders should hold off on expanding the talks during their October 19 - 20 summit. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said on Tuesday that it was too soon to move on to the next phase of negotiations. "We first need to agree on the terms of the divorce and then we see if we can half-lovingly find each other again," Juncker told the EU parliament. Britain has been eager to move on to the next phase of talks in order to start hammering out a trade deal, arguing that it would make sense to discuss these matters in parallel with the EU's priority topics — EU citizen's rights in the UK, financial settlements on exit, and what to do with the Irish border. Last month, May offered the EU concessions in her speech in Florence on the Brexit bill and called for a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in order to ease the impact on citizens and businesses.

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London’s hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations ... Read More »

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