It once seemed a near certainty that Brexit talks would progress on to the next stage by Christmas. Now, it seems somewhat less likely: David Davis reportedly told business leaders it was a 50-50 chance of making a breakthrough by December, according to Bloomberg (although Davis denies saying this). So what explains the latest hold-up?
The Brexit bill remains the big sticking point, says the Financial Times. Theresa May made an ‘opening offer’ of €20bn – and while she ‘may be frustrated’ that her bid was ‘not met by any reciprocal concession from Brussels’, she should not be surprised, says the FT. ‘The reality is,’ says the paper, ‘that the EU does not need to moderate its demands’. After all, Brussels sees ‘little point’ in ‘making concessions’ to Britain when its weak government means there is little chance of getting anything ‘credible’ in return. There is little doubt that May is in ‘a desperately difficult position’. But the Brexit bill is the ‘one area where she can afford to take a risk’, argues the FT. Even the most ardent Brexit cheerleaders see that the cost of the divorce is paltry next to the ‘bigger prize of a favourable trade deal’. It’s time for the Prime Minister to realise this and cough up: ‘This is an opportunity she must seize’, says the FT.
But it’s not only Brussels who are not playing ball, points out the Daily Telegraph. ‘Parliamentary shenanigans’ are also proving problematic. In the months after the referendum, the government did appear to be trying to push Parliament out of the process, the paper suggests. A ‘celebrated court case’ – which ‘made it clear that the government could not trigger the process for withdrawal without the consent of Parliament’ – put paid to that argument. Now, the government has also announced it will put forward a new bill ‘to enact the final agreement’, says the Daily Telegraph. So, with a series of Brexit bills in the ‘pipeline’, ‘it can no longer be argued that Parliament has not been given its say’, argues the Telegraph. It is vital then that ‘MPs and peers…make the legislative process as smooth as possible’, and don’t try to ‘undermine’ the government in Brexit talks in Europe.
Meanwhile, the Sun turns its fire – not for the first time – on the Chancellor. Philip Hammond ‘must overcome…(the) suffocating caution’ which is doing damage to Britain, the paper says in its editorial, in which it calls on Hammond to listen to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, and realise that ‘“no deal” looks increasingly likely’. Despite what Hammond might say, ‘it would be suicidal not to’ prepare for that eventuality, says the Sun. What’s more, the Sun also picks up on reports that Hammond will not opt for a a major house-building project in next week’s Budget. This is ‘central to the Government’s domestic strategy’ – and also vital if the Tories ever want to win over young voters, says the Sun. Hammond must realise ’this is a time for courage and imagination, not miserly bean-counting,’ concludes the Sun.