UK to push for more flexibility in Brexit talks
LONDON — Before the negotiations come negotiations about the negotiations.
In Brussels Tuesday, U.K. and EU negotiators will thrash out a format for the next round of Brexit talks ahead of a December meeting of the European Council, when EU leaders will decide if “sufficient progress” has been made to warrant moving to the next stage.
Officials in Brussels accuse the U.K. of dragging its feet on the question of the format. They claim that if both sides had agreed earlier, there might have been three full rounds of talks.
British officials argue that the Commission has been inflexible about how negotiations are conducted.
They want to change the format, arguing that a change would give both sides a better chance to break deadlocks over a financial settlement between Britain and the EU, Northern Ireland and citizens’ rights.
The U.K. has proposed one “single open-ended” set of talks to replace the formal, one-round-per-month set-up preferred by Brussels, officials familiar with the process said.
Other options put forward include a less formal, rolling format under which David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier would be called into Brussels whenever a political decision was needed.
British officials are concerned that by sticking to the same four-day format for talks neither side will be able to make a breakthrough in time for the December meeting.
“The usual monthly rounds won’t be enough to deliver what we need,” said one senior U.K. official.
Behind the scenes, British officials have been pressing the EU for a more “dynamic” negotiating process, but Brussels is committed to maintaining the formal one-week-on, three-weeks-off format, the official said.
Senior U.K. government officials in Westminster stressed that they had been pushing for a more flexible negotiating format for months, to no avail.