EU leaders plan to agree to Britain’s request for a two-year transition phase during Brexit following this week’s thawing in relations.
Following concessions to Brussels, the EU Council are set to expand negotiation boss Michel Barnier’s powers to “scope out” future trade and security treaties with Brexit Britain.
Our revelation comes as the most intense bout of negotiations yet drew to a close in Brussels.
EU insiders said Britain’s plea for a two-year interim deal post 2019 will now likely be approved at next month’s meeting after ground was given by the UK on future budget payments and citizens rights.
Plans are being hatched to use the October 19-20 summit, to “broaden out” Mr Barnier’s mandate to lead an “exploration” of transition talks and a “pre-scoping” of issues central to the trade and security treaties, EU sources say.
But actual trade talks between the UK and the EU would not begin before December – later than the originally planned launching of “phase two” pencilled in for October.
Irish premier Leo Varadkar warned hitting that old target would be “very challenging”.
A British government source said the new scenario “would be the next best thing” if the October EU Council meeting does not rule that enough progress has been made in tortuous exit talks.
But the new plan is dependent on fresh British concessions as part of “concrete proposals” presented by Monday 9 October, when David Davis and Mr Barnier lock horns on a fifth round of negotiations.
The EU want a list detailing which liabilities the UK will still pay for and a solution to legal rights for EU citizens living in the UK.
One EU source said they now expected detail “of the realistic, well thought-through kind that the UK civil service is known for,” adding that meant “rather less of the kind that requires too much imagination or Zeppelins on the Northern Irish border.”
The full deal to close the first phase of the divorce talks and structure the future trade negotiations would now probably come when EU leaders meet for a summit with Ukraine and other Eastern neighbours on November 24 – or at December’s EU council meeting.
It follows the PM’s formal request for a two year transition in her Florence speech last week – which the EU warmly credited with helping thaw relations.
Mr Barnier said the speech had helped create “a new dynamic”, but warned the UK were still “weeks or maybe even months away from sufficient progress” to move onto the trade talks.
He added that he was not surprised by the British request for a transition period, but it would have to be approved by the other EU leaders.
Mr Davis said he was sure it would be “quick to agree once Michel has a mandate to negotiate it.”
Last night the PM came face to face with the other 27 EU leaders in Estonia for dinner – but rather than officially talk about Brexit, the Premiers listened to a performance from Sting.
PRESS IS SHUNNED
BRITAIN’S Brexit team was gagged from talking to the media during the latest round of negotiations after a leaks row.
Officials from the Department for Exiting the EU and the UK’s permanent representatives in Brussels were warned not to even be seen with journalists after leaks last month.