Opinion: Brexit negotiations – Davis stalls, Barnier anxious to begin

Heading into the Brexit negotiations, ‘the Europeans seem to be in the stronger position,’ says Vincent Georis in L’Echo de Bruxelles, ‘but looks can be deceiving.’
Brexit negotiations
Michel Barnier, ‘the most dangerous man in Europe,’ with Austrian Chancellor hopeful Sebastian Kurz.

BRUSSELS – The photo of UK Secretary for Brexit, David Davis, sat opposite the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is telling, says Georis in his editorial column.

Davis, grinning, is empty-handed. Barnier’s hands rest on a stack of pre-prepared documents.

‘The non-verbals don’t lie: the UK has no intention of getting down to business, and the EU is anxious to begin.’

Gone in 60 minutes.
Davis was in Brussels for less than an hour on Monday (17/07) as round 2 of the Brexit negotiations got underway, though his team claims his early departure was planned.

Barnier is keen to get stuck into negotiating the UK’s “financial obligations.” The projected cost of the divorce bill is currently hovering in-between €50 and €60 billion.

‘It’s a tempting game,’ says Georis. ‘The more the Europeans push London to finalising the figure the more they weaken Theresa May’s government.’

‘The British Prime Minister has been on an ejector seat ever since she lost her absolute majority.’

And Conservative in-fighting suggests even the government haven’t agreed on a Brexit stance, and all the while, the clock ticks, as Barnier reminded Boris Johnson last week.

As required by Article 50, the agreement must be ratified by March 2019, which means Brexit negotiations must end by October 2018.

The EU may seem to be on top, but they are dealing with ‘the craftiest of negotiators,’ says Georis, ‘who are capable of bogging them down in technical discussions’ wearing that same relaxed grin.

‘The risk of not coming to an agreement within the 15 months is real,’ he adds.

‘Other European countries would see that it is possible to leave the EU without negotiations,’ which would make Europe ‘far weaker,’ and would undermine decades of cooperation and progress.