BRUSSELS — The Latest on the Brexit talks between European Union leaders (all times local):
Germany’s main business group is supporting European Union leaders’ refusal to move ahead immediately with talks on the future relationship with Britain.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels told British Prime Minister Theresa May to match her pledges to boost Brexit negotiations with concrete proposals if she wants to start discussing a future trade deal by December. Britain had originally hoped to expand talks to the future relationship immediately.
Joachim Lang, a top official with the Federation of German Industries, said Friday that the summit’s decision is “regrettable but justified.”
Lang called in a statement for clarity by the next EU summit in December. He said: “The British government must move. After that, it will be high time for the negotiating partners finally to speak about the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU.”
French President Emmanuel Macron says that despite the positive signals coming out of the European Union summit on the Brexit negotiations there is still “lots of progress to make if we want to pass to phase 2” and start talks on a future trade relationship.
And even if some in Britain say it would be possible to walk away from the EU without any deal in place on March 29, 2019, Macron insisted that May never mentioned the possibility. Macron called speculation about that option “bluffing.”
EU President Donald Tusk says that the gap between Britain and the EU in the Brexit talks has narrowed and is not as great as many said.
He told a news conference at the end of a two-day summit: “Reports of a deadlock between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been exaggerated.”
EU leaders have said that the differences over issues including the rights of citizens living in each other’s regions have narrowed and that there is progress on the question of the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Differences are far wider, however, on the issue of how much Britain will have to pay to settle previous financial commitments before it leaves the EU.
German Chancellor Merkel says she hopes Brexit talks can move on in December from these preliminary divorce issues to include future relations like trade, but it depends on Britain.
Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain and the European Union “still have some way to go” if they want the Brexit talks to move onto the issue of trade by the end of December.
May insisted there still was lots of work left on two of three key divorce issues before the European Union sees “enough progress” to go to the second phase of talks, which Britain badly wants.
She said both sides were within “touching distance” on citizens’ rights but still had more work to do on settling the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and agreeing on an exit bill for Britain.
She said: “I am ambitious and positive for Britain’s future and for these negotiations. But I know we still have some way to go. We must work together to get to an outcome that we can stand behind and that works for all our people.”
European Union Council President Donald Tusk says that the 27 EU leaders have agreed to start fine-tuning a common position for negotiations on a future trade deal with Britain once it leaves the bloc in 2019.
By starting work on this now, Britain and the EU 27 could start such trade negotiations immediately if a December summit agrees that enough progress has been made on three key divorce issues — Britain’s exit bill, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and citizens’ rights.
Tusk said in a Twitter message: “Leaders green-light internal EU27 preparations for 2nd phase.”
Ireland’s leader is praising British Prime Minister Theresa May for a constructive attitude on Brexit talks but says “we’re a long way” from getting to the next step.
Leo Varadkar on Friday welcomed “very positive language” from May to other EU leaders at a summit in Brussels, notably about the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That’s a central issue at the talks on Britain’s departure from the EU.
But he said “we need to see sentiment and language backed up on more detail” and “we haven’t had sufficient progress yet.”
May met Friday morning with European Council President Donald Tusk and is now meeting with other EU leaders. She will then leave and the remaining 27 leaders will discuss their plans ahead without Britain.
European Union leaders have gathered to weigh progress in Brexit negotiations as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said she told her 27 EU partners that “the clear and urgent imperative must be that the dynamic you create enables us to move forward together.”
Britain is set to leave the EU in 2019, but negotiations must be completed within a year so parliaments can validate it.
Maltese Prime Minster Joseph Muscat praised May’s address to the leaders as her “best performance yet.”
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Friday it appeared to be a rhetorical exercise combining extracts from a previous speech and that it is time to move “from words to real deeds.”