Britain and the EU have set out their camps for the start of Brexit negotiations – but neither are giving away to the other side.
Britain is demanding parallel talks to sort out EU housekeeping and a new trade deal.
The EU has thrown up hands in horror at that suggestion and wants to do a deal over money and expat rights before opening trade talks.
Although European Council President Donald Tusk has replied to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s six-page Brexit letter in a conciliatory tone, his soft words mask a tougher attitude towards the talks.
The Brexit sticking points
The sticking points at this early stage of Brexit are:
- How much Britain is willing to pay to split from the EU
- Expat rights for British citizens in Europe and EU citizens in the UK
- Britain’s security contribution to the EU – this is more about intelligence from the electronic spy centre GCHQ
- How Britain and the EU will trade after March 29, 2019, when the Brexit talks are scheduled to end
“Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time as suggested by some in the UK will not happen,” Tusk said at a media conference.
“Only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal can we discuss the framework for our future relationship.
Opening Brexit gambits
“Talks would be difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational but the EU would not pursue a punitive approach.”
Of course, in the murky world of politics where anything can happen and everything is negotiable, Tusk is cannot say ‘never’.
He was presenting EU guidelines for the Brexit talks. This opening gambit projects a tough stance and an attitude that the EU is in control of the talks.
Both sides explain that they are out to protect their own interests and those of their citizens, but somewhere along the line, something must give if a deal is desired by both sides.
Expect a phoney war of words over the next two months while both sides try to establish the upper hand. The real talking will be behind closed doors in Brussels and London and until then, expect smoke and mirrors.