EU President Donald Tusk (R) talks with Estonia prime minister Juri Ratas during a group photo following a tripartite social summit at the European Council in Brussels, on October 18, 2017. Dario Pignatelli / AFP
EU President Donald Tusk on Wednesday warned Britain not to expect any breakthrough in Brexit negotiations at a European summit this week, saying London needed to come up with more concrete proposals.
Leaders of the other 27 EU members meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are set to postpone until at least December a decision on whether enough progress has been made in talks to move on to discussing Britain and the EU’s future relationship.
Fears are growing that Britain may fail to strike a withdrawal agreement before its formal departure on March 29, 2019 and London had hoped the summit — where Prime Minister Theresa May will plead her case at a working dinner — might clear the logjam.
“I don’t expect any kind of breakthrough tomorrow — we have to work really hard in between October and December to finalise this so-called first phase and to start our negotiations on our future relations with the UK,” Tusk said.
Five rounds of talks have made some progress but major differences remain on the key issues of citizens’ rights, the future of the Irish border after Brexit and in particular how much Britain will pay in to EU budgets as it leaves the bloc.
Britain wants Brussels to acknowledge the progress made in talks, particularly since May’s speech in Florence last month in which she pledged that no other country would have to pay more into the EU or receive less from it as a result of Brexit.
But EU leaders and officials insist that London needs to translate the goodwill into detailed commitments.
“I am absolutely sure that it’s still possible to achieve this final of first phase in December but for this we need more concrete proposals from the British side to be honest,” Tusk said.
Underlining the increasingly tense atmosphere around the talks, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani ignited a fresh row late on Tuesday when derided Britain’s 20 billion euro offer on the financial settlement as “peanuts”.
“I have never seen 20 billion peanuts in my life,” Tusk joked when asked about Tajani’s comment.
His comments came on the same day that the British and EU chief negotiators clashed over a claim by London that Brussels is deliberately stalling the divorce haggling to extract more cash.