UK’s May says Brexit talks making progress; EU denies leak

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May take part in an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, in this October 20, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 October 2017
0

UK’s May says Brexit talks making progress; EU denies leak

LONDON: Giving an upbeat verdict on an inconclusive European Union summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday she has “a degree of confidence” that Brexit talks will be able to move to their decisive second phase by December.
She told lawmakers that the talks on Britain’s divorce from the EU had made “important progress,” despite a judgment by the 27 other EU leaders that more needs to be done before the two sides can discuss trade and their future relations.
May said she had “a degree of confidence we are going to get to a point of sufficient progress by December,” allowing talks to move on.
With Britain’s March 2019 departure from the EU moving closer, Britain is eager to start discussing trade and future relations with the bloc. But EU leaders say there has not yet been “sufficient progress” on divorce terms, including the size of the bill Britain must pay to settle its commitments to the bloc.
Britain’s initial offer to cover its previous EU commitments of around 20 billion euros ($24 billion) falls far short of the EU estimate of 60 billion euros ($70 billion) or more.
May refused to commit to a figure, saying “we are going through our potential commitments line by line.”
May has been in need of a boost from the 27 other EU leaders as she tries to hold together a government, a Conservative Party and a country deeply divided over Brexit. At the EU meeting in Brussels last week, she told fellow leaders that both sides needed “an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people.”
An EU official said, after last week’s dinner, all the leaders were aware of the difficulties May is facing at home. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential, said there was a sense among EU leaders that they didn’t want to make life more difficult for May.
But May’s life was not made any easier by a German newspaper report claiming that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who dined with May last week, saw her as “despondent” and “begging” the EU to help her make progress.
Juncker denied saying any such thing, insisting that his dinner with May in Brussels had not gone nearly as badly as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung suggested.
“She was neither tired nor beaten. She did her thing, and I did mine too,” Juncker said, speaking at the Institute of Political Studies in Strasbourg, France.
Juncker and his chief aide denied leaking the account of the meeting to the newspaper, and May’s spokesman declined to comment on it.
Meanwhile, Britain’s biggest business groups urged May’s Conservative government to quickly agree to a transition period of at least two years after Brexit to provide certainty about trade as companies make critical decisions about jobs and investment.
The letter sent to UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said an “agreement (on a transition) is needed as soon as possible, as companies are preparing to make serious decisions at the start of 2018, which will have consequences for jobs and investment in the UK“
May has requested a two-year transition period in which the two sides would trade on terms largely similar to current arrangements. But Britain and the EU have yet to discuss details of any such transition.


Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

Updated 32 min 13 sec ago
0

Spain threatens to send national police to Catalonia after protests

MADRID: Spain’s interior minister said he would send national police to Catalonia if local authorities did not do more to stop protests like the one that shut down major highways over the weekend.
Fernando Grande-Marlaska accused the local Catalan police of doing nothing to prevent pro-independence protesters blocking the AP-7 toll road, which runs up Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for more than 15 hours on Saturday.
The involvement of national police would be a contentious issue in the northeastern region which has its own administration and where polls suggest almost half the population wants to split away from Spain.
It would also stir memories of Madrid’s decision to send in a large contingent of national police in September last year after the Catalan government called an illegal independence referendum.
“Serious disruptions of public order and traffic security, such as those seen in the last few days, need to be dealt with by the regional police,” the minister wrote to his regional counterpart in an open letter late on Monday.
“If this does not happen ... the government will order an intervention by the state police,” he added.
Catalonia’s government would respond to the questions raised in the letter, spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said on Tuesday, without saying when or going into further detail. She repeated calls for dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
Spain’s previous conservative government took control of the region when the regional administration unilaterally declared independence following the Oct. 1, 2017 referendum.
Many of the Catalan politicians that took part in the declaration are in prison awaiting trial for rebellion or in exile.
Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — who came to power in June — has said he is open to a referendum on greater autonomy and has promised to lay out detailed plans in parliament on Wednesday.
But Grande-Marlaska said the local authorities had to show they could keep order and prevent a repeat of Saturday’s protests.
“It was observed that there was no intervention (by the regional police) ... a reality that is difficult to deny,” he said in a radio interview on Tuesday morning.