After another round of Brexit talks ended in acrimony, the time could be ripe for national leaders to step in and break the deadlock. The question is whether Theresa May has the skills to do it.
Colleagues and counterparts who have dealt with the prime minister over the years attest to her ability to be stubborn — “By God it was hard work,” former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said last year when asked about negotiating with her — but getting agreement will require flexibility as well as toughness.
On Thursday the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the talks still had not progressed anywhere near enough for there to be a prospect of moving on to trade discussions after October. (His British counterpart, David Davis, was less pessimistic.)
That prompted a drop in the pound and dismayed European officials. The European Parliament’s Brexit lead, Guy Verhofstadt, bemoans the British approach in the Telegraph today. The big sticking point is money — how much the U.K. is prepared to pay toward commitments the EU has made on the assumption of continued U.K. membership.
This is the sort of gridlock where heads of government have more latitude than appointed negotiators, so it’s possible progress could be made if May finds a receptive audience among her peers, Bloomberg’s Rob Hutton and Ian Wishart report.
That may even be the plan of British negotiators, who have steadfastly refused to reveal their positions — even behind closed doors — and may be intentionally stringing things out until an EU summit on Oct. 19, say people familiar with how the talks are progressing in Brussels.
“What it ultimately will come down to is a crunch summit at which key players will have to make decisions on what’s acceptable,” said Craig Oliver, who worked for former Prime Minister David Cameron as director of communications. “Don’t underestimate the extent to which leaders don’t focus until the last minute. Things come into focus at the crunch.”
Sticking Points | As Brexit talks end without a breakthrough, Bloomberg’s Nikos Chrysololas and Ian Wishart have produced a handy guide to where both sides stand on the key issues.
Khan’s Message | A good Brexit deal is still possible, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Bloomberg Television, but “the prime minister and her cabinet have got to raise their game.”
Northern Ireland Riddle | As part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, British nationals living there are also entitled to Irish (and by extension EU) citizenship — even if they’ve never set foot south of the border. Post-Brexit, that opens up a legal and political minefield.
Empty Malls | Private equity investors would like to sell some £2 billion ($2.6 billion) worth of unloved British shopping malls, but their value has fallen sharply since the Brexit vote, Bloomberg’s Jack Sidders reports.
Brexit Express | The U.K. may be clattering toward an exit from the European Union, but its railways are steaming in the opposite direction. The national rail companies of France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are snapping up operating contracts on a host of British rail routes as private local firms struggle to compete, Bloomberg’s Chris Jasper reports.
Aston Martin | The CEO of James Bond’s favorite carmaker revealed his Brexit nightmare scenario isn’t tariffs but import logjams as a result of a customs schism. Andy Palmer said the prospect of his cars piling up at French ports is one he “can’t cope with.”
BOE Dissent | The risks related to Britain’s exit from the European Union aren’t reason enough to hold off raising interest rates, according to Bank of England policy dissenter Michael Saunders.
Do you remember “Brexit means Brexit”? In Brussels on Wednesday Barnier invoked the U.K.’s oft-repeated and at times derided slogan to ask David Davis whether the U.K. wasn’t missing the bloc after all.
“British positions are nostalgic, they involve wanting to benefit from all single market benefits without being in it,” Barnier told reporters in Brussels as Davis stood on a podium alongside side him.
Davis was quick to respond: “I wouldn’t confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia.”
Simon Kennedy is away.