EU asks for more clarity from UK after Brexit relations
13 Mar 2018, 20:07 ( 10 days ago)
If the European Union (EU) and Britain are to reach an understanding on their future relationship, London should provide more clarity on its view about it, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told the European Parliament here Tuesday.
"As the clock ticks down with one year to go, it is now time to translate speeches into treaties, to turn commitments into agreements, broad suggestions and wishes on the future relationship into specific workable conditions," he said in what can be seen as a rebuke to the speech of British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier in the month.
In her Mansion House speech on March 2, May said it was time to face the "hard facts" of Brexit. She admitted that access between Britain and EU markets would be reduced, given that the EU's stance on the freedom of movement and other criteria for single market access were not aligned with British needs.
Many saw the speech as a clarification of London's position on the future EU-Britain relationship, but Juncker's Wednesday statements indicate that speeches will not take the place of signed agreements.
"Even though in the last fourteen months there has been a succession of speeches outlining the UK view on the future of our relations, we still need more concrete and more operational proposals," said Monika Panayotova on Tuesday, representing the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU.
"There was this Mansion House speech by Mrs. May, but mainly repeating the red lines that we've already known for two years," said Guy Verhofstadt, representative of the European Parliament for Brexit, "the problem is today we don't have a proposal from the UK side on the future relationship. It's still lacking," he said.
Meanwhile, EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament in stronger terms that May was not facing the "hard facts" herself: "Clearly you can't have the status of a third country and ask for the advantages of partnership," he said Tuesday.
The somewhat escalated wrangling between the EU and Britain came after the bloc published its draft negotiating guidelines last week, which firmly refused what has been called "British cherry-picking" of privileges and responsibilities of membership in the Union.
"It should come as no surprise that the only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement," European Council President Donald Tusk said in his statement upon publishing the guidelines, refusing much of the vision that May had shared in her Manson speech.
London's response to the guidelines was cold in turn, with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond calling them "very tough" on Wednesday, claiming that Britain would refuse any final trade agreement that did not include financial services.
May and EU27 leaders is set to hold a new round Brexit negotiation on March 22 and 23, with hopes for the consolidation of a transition deal immediately following March 29, 2019, when Britain will become a third country.