Britain, EU clash over next Brexit move

Britain, EU clash over next Brexit move

LONDON/BRUSSELS-Reuters
Britain, EU clash over next Brexit move

Britain and its European Union partners clashed on Oct. 9 over which side should make the next move to unblock Brexit talks, despite concerns they will miss a deadline for a divorce deal and that London is heading for a chaotic departure.

Prime Minister Theresa May made clear in speech she was to deliver to parliament that she hoped her EU partners would make proposals at a new round of talks opening the way to the next stage of negotiations, saying “the ball is in their court.”

But even before she had delivered the speech, an EU spokesman hit back in Brussels, saying “the ball is entirely in the U.K. court for the rest to happen.”

May is desperate to try to regain some of her authority and refocus on talks to unravel more than 40 years of union after a speech at her party conference last week, marred by a repetitive cough, a prankster and a stage malfunction, left her weaker than ever.

She has so far fought off attempts to unseat her by critics already angry over an ill-judged election when she lost her governing Conservatives’ majority, but her weakness has opened the door for many in her party to challenge her Brexit strategy with just 18 months to go before Britain leaves the EU.

With Brussels quietly preparing for a collapse in the talks and Britain getting ready for what May calls “all eventualities”, some officials and business chiefs worry the country will crash out of the EU without a deal.

Speaking in parliament later on Monday, May will say she is determined to secure a new partnership with the other 27 members of the wealthy political and trade bloc.

“Achieving that partnership will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU,” she will say, according to excerpts of her speech.

“And as we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic we will receive a positive response.”

But the EU was clear: “There is a clear sequencing to these talks and there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a regular briefing.

“So the ball is entirely in the U.K. court for the rest to happen.”

Brexit, European Union, Britain