European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned it would take a “miracle” to reach the next phase of Brexit talks to discuss a future trade deal between the UK and EU, a crucial demand of Britain.
“By the end of October we will not have sufficient progress,” Juncker said Friday as he arrived for the second day of the EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia. “I’m saying there will be no sufficient progress from now until October unless miracles will happen.”
However, Juncker agreed progress had been made between the two sides this week.
The European Council will decide in October whether sufficient progress has been made to begin trade talks, as the UK wants.
Only if EU leaders approve there has been “sufficient progress” on these three issues would negotiators be allowed to move towards the more complex issue of future trade ties between the EU and Britain.
British and EU negotiators wrapped up their fourth round of negotiations on Thursday. The latest talks, while more positive in tone, failed to deliver the breakthrough that’s needed for negotiations to start on the trade deal Britain desperately wants.
At a press conference on Thursday in Brussels, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned a transition to phase two of talks could take “months,” a blow to Theresa May’s hopes for faster progress.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk echoed Barnier’s stance last week, saying “no sufficient progress” has been made to move to the next phase of Brexit talks.
The EU has decided that current negotiations should aim to resolve the status of EU nationals living in the UK; the amount Britain will have to pay for the departure; and the question of what should happen to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Last week, May made a speech in Florence, Italy, to encourage EU leaders to agree that “sufficient progress” has been made on the withdrawal for discussions to turn to trade.