EU ups the pressure over Brexit negotiations

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has stressed that Brexit should be completed by October 2018. Barnier said on Tuesday in Brussels that the EU will have only 18 months for the negotiations once Britain triggers the process in March. Commentators see Brussels as having the upper hand and argue against the idea that London will be able to dictate the Brexit conditions.

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Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Theresa May increasingly desperate

Tough demands from Brussels and resistance in London are giving the British government a hard time, the Wiener Zeitung observes:

“Barniers' statements are no doubt the kind of maximum demands negotiations usually begin with. But the British government under Theresa May is under increasing pressure at home too. She faces a petition supported by Tory MPs who want the people informed about the Brexit plans. And the Supreme Court will decide on Thursday whether parliament must be given a say on Brexit. All this weakens her negotiating position and causes delays. The prime minister also seems increasingly desperate, and the mood is clearly starting to turn in Britain. A growing number of British people are realising that leaving the EU isn't such a good idea after all. The last by-election was won by a candidate who is against Brexit.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

London would rather wait and see

Britain has a vested interest in postponing its decision on the Brexit, Il Sole 24 Ore believes:

“London doesn't want to commit itself to a time frame that would force the government to make quick decisions. Above all because the British establishment still hasn't decided what it really wants. Some members of government have implied that the country would be ready to make a financial contribution to the EU in exchange for access to the single market, following Norway's example. Others are opposed to this. Moreover, legal issues are blocking official application for withdrawal from the EU. ... The British Supreme Court must rule on the appeal against the November ruling that parliament must confirm the result of the referendum and set in motion the withdrawal process.”

El País (ES) /

British have little say

The EU has the upper hand in the Brexit negotiations, British historian Timothy Garton stresses in El País:

“There is something unreal in the current British debate about 'whether to go for soft Brexit or hard Brexit'. At the end of the day, whether we have a hard or soft Brexit will depend more on others than on us. Let’s be absolutely clear: a negotiating position where you have a specified two years to reach a deal ... and you need 27 other states to agree to it ... is a very weak one for Britain. And the stock of continental goodwill has been depleted by decades of Britain being an awkward partner. ... Over the next 12 months we have ... a Dutch parliamentary election, a French presidential election and a German general election. All of these ... will affect the position taken by our European partners ... in 2018. ... In a period like this ... wisdom lies in agreeing a rigorous parliamentary process, informing the public of the real facts and hard choices, careful diplomatic preparation, keeping options open - and watchful waiting for a moment of opportunity. This may sound dull, but who said Brexit would be fun?”

The Times (GB) /

Britain needs EU migrants

One of the key bones of contention regarding Brexit is the question of how Britain will deal with EU citizens living in the country. Prime Minister Theresa May's refusal to guarantee them a right of residence is an empty threat, The Times criticises:

“For the most part, ONS figures show, EU immigrants to Britain are significantly younger than the national average, and more likely to be in work. Which means, should we choose to send them all back, we would not, actually, be hurting the rest of the EU half as much as we would be hurting ourselves. ... Certainly, also, there are hundreds of thousands of younger Brits gainfully employed in other European nations. They, though, are spread around. Their sudden departure would not devastate any particular country’s hospitality industry, or construction industry, or nursing workforce. Whereas here? This is why the threat simply doesn’t work.”