Friday, June 9, 2017

EU Fears Brexit Delay, Uncertainty after Shock UK Vote

European Union leaders fear Prime Minister Theresa May's shock loss of her majority in the snap British election will delay Brexit talks due to start this month and raise the risk of negotiations failing.

Guenther Oettinger, the German member of the European Commission, said it was unclear whether negotiations could be launched on June 19, as planned, while a weak British government raised the risk that talks could fail to reach the kind of deal that can limit disruption when Britain leaves in March 2019, Reuters reported.

"We need a government that can act," Oettinger told the Deutschland funk radio station. "With a weak negotiating partner, there's the danger that the negotiations will turn out badly."

Michel Barnier, the EU executive's negotiator who planned to launch talks in Brussels a week on Monday, made clear they could only now start once Britain has a team in place: "Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready," he tweeted.

"Timetable and EU positions are clear. Let's put our minds together on striking a deal."

  • EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini said it was "difficult to predict" when Britain would have a clear strategy, a full year after the referendum that narrowly backed Brexit.

  • But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was quick to scotch any suggestion that Britain might do a U-turn and ask to stay in the EU - something that would need EU agreement.

Germany's European affairs minister Michael Roth said time was tight until the expiry of a two-year window to reach a negotiated deal: "We should not waste any time," he said.

Few Europeans voiced much sympathy for May. Some compared her to her predecessor David Cameron, who sought to silence Eurosceptic fellow Conservatives by calling the referendum on EU membership which ended his career and shocked Europe.

"Yet another own goal, after Cameron now May, will make already complex negotiations even more complicated," tweeted Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal former Belgian premier who is the European Parliament's point man for the Brexit process.


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