No Holiday Revenge for EU as Brexit Talks Said to Be Delayed

(Bloomberg) -- When European Union officials found themselves forced to work on a public holiday this week after the British government published an important Brexit document, they may have been tempted to exact a spot of revenge.

Instead, the EU decided to accept the U.K.’s request to delay the start of the next round of Brexit negotiations to enable British officials -- 98 of which attended the Brussels talks in July -- to put their feet up on Britain’s Aug. 28 “summer bank holiday,” according to two people familiar with the plans.

Public holidays are one aspect of life that the EU hasn’t harmonized across its 28 countries, and European Commission staff generally follow the calendar of Belgium, where most of its employees are based. The British government published its position on post-Brexit customs arrangements on Tuesday, which was Assumption Day, a vacation day in Belgium but not in the U.K.

While the start-date for this month’s talks hasn’t been formally agreed yet, it’s likely to be Aug. 29 or Aug. 30 and the negotiating round is likely to run for three days, officials said.

Time is of the essence given the two sides need to form a consensus on dealing with topics such as the Irish border, financial settlement and citizens’ rights. Only when those matters are resolved will the EU allow the talks to turn to a long-term trade deal. Having initially identified October as a potential start date for that conversation, speculation is now mounting it will be be postponed to December.