Theresa May has manufactured yet another disappointment for the UK and herself – in her Tory conference speech, of all places.
The unelected prime minister announced that the UK would invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – our formal resignation from the EU – next March.
But with the European Commission rejecting calls for preparatory talks, many people will be asking the obvious question: Why hang about? Why not issue the official notification now?
By laying down March as the deadline, Mrs May is saying she wants to delay the process for six months, on top of the three we’ve had already.
It’s bad for business. The markets have been friendly to the Tories so far, but that won’t last forever.
The longer she puts off the inevitable, the worse the end result is likely to be. Does she want that?
The European commission has rejected Theresa May’s call for preparatory talks on Brexit before the UK’s formal resignation from the EU.
The commission, which will run Brexit talks for the EU, reiterated its refusal to negotiate before article 50 is triggered, which the prime minister has promised will happen by before the end of March. “I cannot go an inch beyond the ‘no negotiations without notification’ principle,” said Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The prime minister, who delighted Eurosceptics with her party conference speech, which leaned towards a complete break with the EU, is pushing for advance talks, before article 50. She said it was important for the UK and for Europe as a whole, to carry out “preparatory work” to ensure smoother negotiations.
Juncker will meet May on the sidelines of a European summit in October, but would not negotiate with her, his spokesman said.
“When it comes to article 50 we will work constructively on the basis of a notification, not on the basis of a speech. And until this letter of notification arrives, there will be no negotiations. Once it arrives we are prepared to engage constructively and in good faith,” the spokesman said.
EU diplomats have rebuffed attempts by British colleagues to launch informal preparatory talks on article 50; so far the consensus shows no sign of cracking.
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