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Brussels plot to TORPEDO Brexit: Eurocrats insist on no trade talks before Britain leaves

BRUSSELS chiefs are plotting to torpedo Theresa May’s Brexit strategy in an extraordinary act of self-harm which will leave Britain unable to seal a trade deal with the bloc before its departure date.

In a bombshell move eurocrats want to seek a legal lock on discussions about the UK’s access to the single market, meaning that the issue cannot be brought up during the negotiations.Instead they intend to ensure that the two-year period allowed for under Article 50 revolves around just two issues – their £50bn demand for an exit bill and the residency rights of EU citizens in the UK.

Theresa MayGETTY            Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 this month


Senior EU Commission officials today said that the strategy was designed to stop the crucial issue of trade and tariffs dominating, and admitted it could leave negotiators facing months without anything to talk about.But one eurosceptic source at the EU Parliament dismissed the move qas “all speculation” and said it had been leaked in an attempt to sow panic in Downing Street ahead of the triggering of Article 50 later this month.

Michel BarnierGETTY     Michel Barnier will not be legally allowed to negotiate on trade


Julian KingGETTY           It is unclear what will happen to the Britain’s Commissioner, Julian King


The European Commission refused to be drawn on the reports this afternoon when pressed by express.co.uk but did say it had been preparing throroughly for the activation of Article 50.But according to a top Brussels source officials at the Commission, which will handle the heavy lifting of the Brexit negotiations, are seeking a mandate from the 27 member states which covers an extremely limited range of topics.

Under the process agreed by EU leaders and eurocrats the Council will set out its Brexit priorities in a note to Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who will then be tasked with leading the talks.

Downing Street wants to prioritise the issue of tariffs and single market access so that an agreement is in place by the time Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

But this approach is being fiercely opposed by eurocrats, who see the talks as a purely bureaucratic and legal process to separate the UK from the framework of the project.

Barnier will not be legally allowed to negotiate on trade, on customs

EU Commission source

A senior source said they have now come up with a cast iron way of ensuring that no broader negotiation can take place on the future relationship between the EU and Britain until the legal divorce is fully agreed.They told Politico “The negotiating directive will directly translate this principle. The number of topics to be discussed are quite limited.

“It is basically the UK’s time-limited and continuing financial obligations and the rights of citizens.

“Barnier will not be legally allowed to negotiate on trade, on customs, on whether the UK can still participate in the Horizon 2020 research program.

“If the UK says we want to discuss tariffs and the European Banking Authority and the space program, and what happens to King, Barnier will have a simple answer: ‘This is not in my mandate to negotiate with you.’”

The last two comments refer to the future location of Europe’s main banking watchdog, which is currently in London, and the fate of the UK’s current EU Commissioner Julian King, who is in charge of the security portfolio.

The source openly admitted that this approach would mean “there may be a few months where the parties are not really talking to each other” despite the two-year period provided by Article 50 leaving little time to lose.

Tory MP John Redwood, a leading eurosceptic, said the EU needs a trade deal with Britain more than the UK needs one with it due to the huge trade imbalance between the two parties.

He said: “A good negotiation for the UK needs to be friendly, straight forward, and with limited requests of the others.“Germany now grasps that they need continuing access to the large London financial markets which do so much to help finance continental business as well as to our lucrative car market.

“French, Dutch, Danish and other farming businesses on the continent do not want to see the quite high tariffs allowed under the otherwise low tariff WTO regime placed against their voluminous exports to us.

“The more realistic continental politicians see they cannot undertake the type of negotiation they expected.

“It is difficult to see that the UK wants anything from the negotiation that the rest of the EU does not want and need more.”

Asked whether or not eurocrats had approached the Council over what they would like to be in Mr Barnier’s mandate, Commission deputy chief spokesman said: “What we have been doing here in the Commission is preparing ourselves very well both internally and in our contacts with the 27 countries for the formal notification that we expect to arrive.

“So if and when it will arrive, we will start the negotiations once the guidelines from the European Council are there, once the formal mandate from the Council is there.”

Mrs May is expected to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month, now most likely once the EU has held its 60th birthday celebrations in Rome on March 25.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/780360/Brexit-news-EU-Commission-mandate-trade-talks-Britain-UK

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