U.K. Annoys EU With Call for Help Defining Brexit Plan, Sources SayBy
Theresa May is frustrating top officials in European capitals with her Brexit strategy, according to three people familiar with the situation.
Struggling to find an approach to Brexit that can win the support of her divided cabinet, U.K.’s prime minister is asking European officials and leaders to come up with ideas on what kind of future relationship might be on offer, they said on condition of anonymity.
Chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier has been trying for months to get the U.K. to say what kind of trading relationship it wants after the split, a call he reiterated Monday. He has already laid out in stark terms what he says are the U.K.’s options.
Barnier, who is handling the talks on behalf of the remaining 27 member states, says the U.K. has to decide between full membership of the single market -- and the rules that go with it -- or a loose free-trade arrangement similar to Canada’s trade accord with the bloc. The U.K. argues that neither are good enough: It wants a tailor-made deal that will include its huge services industry but allows it to opt out of the most controversial bits of membership.
The U.K. government declined to comment.
Nineteen months after the referendum that forced a rewrite of Britain’s economic and foreign policy, the cabinet is still debating how close it should stay to the bloc after the split and what concessions it’s prepared to make. The EU says the U.K.’s own red lines on immigration and the role of European judges set the boundaries of any possible deal.
The euroskeptic wing of May’s party is increasingly vocal in its demands for a clean break, and May needs to listen to them as her job depends on their support. She’s now facing calls to fire her chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, who enraged the pro-Brexit camp last week by saying the divorce would bring only "modest” changes to the relationship.