U.K., EU Delay Next Round of Brexit Talks Until Sept. 25
(Bloomberg) -- Brexit negotiators postponed next week’s scheduled round of divorce talks by a week, adding to signs that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is planning a public speech on her latest strategy.
Officials from the European Union and Britain were due to meet in Brussels on Monday for the fourth time since June, but will now gather on Sept. 25. The aim is to give both sides more time to ensure they make progress when they do convene, a U.K. government spokesman said in a statement. Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited Britain’s political calendar.
The delay is being formalized a week after the European Parliament’s Guy Verhofstadt said May was preparing to make an "important intervention" that might require rescheduling.
Such a speech would mark a follow-up to the one May gave in January in which she first unveiled her vision for the separation of the U.K. from the EU, in language that was seen at the time as hard and uncompromising. The likeliest time spot is looking to be after her return from attending the United Nations in New York, around Sept. 22.
Her Conservative government has been forced to soften its approach after losing its parliamentary majority. It has shown more willingness to compromise on the need for a transition and paying a divorce bill, although EU officials complain a refusal to discuss the details of the financial settlement mean the two sides are in deadlock.
This time, May’s speech is intended to try to force the pace of negotiations in the run-up to a summit in October when EU leaders are scheduled to give an assessment of whether “sufficient progress” has been made on separation issues to enable the start of trade discussions. A date for the speech has yet to confirmed.
May will use the occasion to explain how a raft of British position papers offer a vision of a “deep and special partnership” with the EU, and make the case for continuous talks to inject urgency, according to May’s team last week.
As diplomacy before next month’s summit intensifies, May is also set to talk at the end of September to her European counterparts at a gathering in Tallinn, Estonia --which on the cards is about digital issues but could cast light on the state of Brexit affairs.
Last week, the EU’s Barnier said he was “very disappointed” by the U.K. position on the bill because the British government “seems to be backtracking” on commitments to honor its international obligations.