The PM hoped her Florence speech would unlock negotiations—but her recent Brussels trip showed it has not. What happens now?by Alex Dean / October 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
The Article 50 clock is ticking—but Britain just doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere on Brexit. Months into the biggest constitutional challenge the country has faced in decades—perhaps ever—negotiations are at a standstill. Little progress has been made on the most fundamental exit terms, let alone the future trading relationship Britain wants with the continent.
Theresa May had hoped that her Florence speech—where she said Britain would seek a transitional deal and agreed to pay the EU a “divorce bill”—would unlock the talks. The lack of a breakthrough during her trip to Brussels yesterday suggests it has not. Juncker, Barnier and co are still playing hardball, claiming the divorce offer is not sufficient for talks on the transition to begin. The rebuttal comes just days ahead of a crunch EU summit, by which time the PM had hoped things would be moving forward.
So what’s going to happen now? How long will the deadlock last? Could talks breakdown altogether, leaving Britain to plunge over the Brexit cliff edge? Discussion with those in the know confirmed the worst.
The problem has been building over recent months. When John Kerr, the author of Article 50, visited the Prospect offices in early September, he accused the government of downright incompetence. “I think the negotiation which has mattered to the government up to now has been the negotiation inside the Conservative Party,” he said. “I don’t think much time is being spent thinking about how to influence the foreigners.”