Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has announced today that the Brexit negotiations could not proceed to trade talks until the UK gives further assurances on a number of preliminary issues. The stumbling blocks include: more detail on citizen’s rights to move and work in the UK; a financial settlement to honour future obligations to the EU; and the issue over the Irish border. Mr. Tusk did however express some optimism following the Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, speech in Florence last Friday, commenting “I feel cautiously optimistic about the constructive and more realistic tone in the prime minister’s speech in Florence and of our discussion today. This shows that the philosophy of having a cake and eating it, is finally at an end. At least I hope so. That’s good news. But of course no-one will ever tell me that Brexit is a good thing because as I have always said, in fact, Brexit is only about damage control. And I didn’t change my opinion. I feel now we will discuss our future relations with the UK once there is so-called sufficient progress. The two sides are working and we will work hard at it. But if you ask me and if today member states ask me, I would say there is no sufficient progress yet. But we will work on it.” Mrs. May had hoped that announcing a two year transition period would free up trade talks between the UK and the EU, with the Brexit secretary, David Davis, announcing that there were now “no excuses for standing in the way of progress”. Meanwhile the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has called for a “moment of clarity” from the UK on these preliminary issues, emphasising that formal negotiations have been on-going for six months.
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