Downing Street’s reported plans to bypass EU negotiators and open one-on-one Brexit negotiations with world leaders will be shut down by Brussels, it has been warned.
The British government is reportedly frustrated that the EU will not discuss the terms of the future EU-UK relationship until issues such as the ‘divorce bill’ and the rights of EU citizens are settled.
As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesperson has refused to rule out seeing her go on a round of ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to European capitals in an attempt to get around Brussels.
May planned to directly approach world leaders, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, where she hopes to receive a warmer reception on trade. She also believes Britain can broker a deal over payments by taking such an approach with the bloc’s leaders.
Brussels has poured cold water on the idea, however, pointing to a statement agreed by member states including France and Germany that they would abstain from side talks, the Independent reports.
The European Council’s negotiating plan says the talks must be conducted “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately.”
“So as not to undercut the position of the Union, there will be no separate negotiations between individual member states and the United Kingdom on matters pertaining to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union,” it says.
Britain’s plan comes after harsh words from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who urged the UK to start negotiating “seriously,” and from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said it was “crystal clear” trade talks could not begin until the UK pays a £74 billion (US$95 billion) exit settlement.
Brexit secretary David Davis said at the latest round of talks that he wanted to see “flexibility and imagination on both sides.” Defending the UK’s position papers from criticism by Barnier, Davis said they were the product of “hard work and detailed thinking that has been going on behind the scenes” for the last year.
EU and UK officials have been meeting in Brussels for the third round of negotiations this week, with issues on the table including the divorce bill, the Northern Ireland border and the rights of EU citizens.