U.K. Demands More Frequent Brexit Talks to Force Progress

Updated on
  • Prime minister said to want rolling negotiations with the EU
  • Davis to tell ministers of ‘no deal’ contingencies on Tuesday

Economist Dumas Questions Brexit's Market Significance

Brexit Secretary David Davis will brief Theresa May’s cabinet on Tuesday on contingency plans in case negotiations collapse, as the U.K. seeks to intensify talks with the European Union in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Davis has proposed a different structure to the negotiations in the hope that it will help both sides to make the necessary compromises on the divorce terms for talks to move on to trade, a person familiar with the U.K. position said Monday.

The U.K. wants more discussions on an ongoing basis and to move away from the current pattern of four-day sessions held once a month in Brussels, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the strategy is private. Regardless of the negotiating structure, only compromises on both sides will deliver the progress needed to break the logjam, the person said.

For Britain, the question is urgent. May’s team wants to start discussing the future trading relationship and a two-year transition phase before the end of the year, but must first satisfy the EU that the U.K. will pay what it owes when it leaves.

Macron and Merkel

Photographer: Ralph Orlowski/AFP via Getty Images

Only when European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agree that the U.K. and EU have made “sufficient progress” on divorce terms will they allow talks to move on to post-Brexit trade.

Next EU Summit

May’s first chance to win this approval is at the next EU summit on Dec. 14. If the U.K. misses this deadline for progress, some British officials believe the negotiations will be at risk of failure. With or without a deal, the U.K. is set to quit the bloc in March 2019.

Talks are hung up over how much the U.K. will pay in the so-called Brexit bill. The bloc wants Britain to accept that it owes the EU 60 billion euros ($70 billion) to cover commitments it made during its membership, including loans to member states and pension liabilities for EU staff.

Read more: The Brexit Bill and Whether Britain Will Pay Up: QuickTake Q&A

For May, settling the accounts is a highly charged issue. The Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum promised to claw back billions of pounds in annual contributions the U.K. makes to the EU and spend the money instead on healthcare and other priorities. May has already promised to pay about 20 billion euros during a two-year transition and pledged to honor the U.K.’s wider financial obligations, but this is not yet enough for the EU.

At a regular cabinet meeting Tuesday, Davis will update his colleagues on planning for Brexit, including contingency measures in case negotiations fall apart. Davis will advise May and her ministers about the impact Brexit will have on 58 sectors, including financial services, covering an estimated 88 percent of the U.K. economy.

“They will be looking at Brexit preparations for all outcomes,” May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters Monday in London. “Obviously that includes no deal, but as the prime minister has said, we are confident of getting a deal.”

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