Donald Tusk today said there had not ‘yet’ been enough progress in the Brexit negotiations to trigger trade talks.
The EU Council President praised Theresa May’s Florence speech and welcomed a new British approach which he said meant the end of the ‘having cake and eating it’ philosophy.
Mr Tusk’s new intervention, on the steps of Downing Street after a meeting with Theresa May, will raise expectations trade talks will not start on time next month.
He travelled to London this morning after a briefing from the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier about the state of the talks.
British and European officials are today locked in the fourth round of negotiations and Mrs May hopes to have broken a stalemate with her intervention last week.
The Premier spelt out her hopes for a two year transition deal and signalled Britain would pay up to £40billion to settle the divorce.
Speaking to reporters outside Downing Street (pictured) Donald Tusk today said there had not ‘yet’ been enough progress in the Brexit negotiations to trigger trade talk
British and European officials are today locked in the fourth round of negotiations and Mrs May hopes to have broken a stalemate with her intervention last week
Addressing waiting reporters as he left No 10 today, Mr Tusk said he was unmoved in his opinion that Brexit was first and foremost a ‘damage control’ exercise.
But he praised Mrs May for shifting the Government position with her Florence speech and said: ‘I feel cautiously optimistic about the constructive and more realistic tone of the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence and in our discussions today.
‘This shows the philosophy of having our cake and eating it is finally at an end – at least I hope so.
‘No one will ever tell me Brexit is a good thing. As I have always said in fact it is only about damage control.’
IDS CALLS FOR NO DEAL BREXIT PLAN
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has called on the Government to draw up plans for a no deal Brexit.
The veteran Eurosceptic wrote for the Conservative Home website that Britain must be ready to call the EU’s bluff in the talks.
Mr Duncan Smith complained the reasons for a long transition period were not clear.
He said: ‘We are, I believe, poised at a critical moment.
‘As we wait for a somewhat weakened Angela Merkel to re-enter the negotiations, we must either decide we want decisiveness and clarity and set the agenda, or bend the knee and hope for the best.’
He added: ‘If you ask me I would say there is not sufficient progress yet but we will work on it.’
A No 10 spokesman said Mrs May outlined the thinking behind her speech to the council president.
He said: ‘The PM and President Tusk welcomed the good progress that had been made on citizens’ rights in the talks so far, and restated their commitment to finding a positive solution to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
‘The PM also stressed the importance of agreeing a period of implementation once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
‘She said this would build a bridge to that new relationship that ensures the process is smooth and orderly and creates as much certainty as possible for everyone.
‘At the end of the meeting, the PM said her Florence speech had been intended to create momentum in the ongoing talks.
‘She said it was important for EU negotiators to now respond in the same spirit.’
Donald Tusk visited Downing Street today (pictured) to praise Theresa May’s ‘excellent’ Florence speech and revealed he was now more optimistic about the Brexit talks
The EU Council President travelled to London this morning after a briefing from the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier about the state of the talks
Speaking earlier as he arrived in Downing Street for the talks, Mr Tusk described the speech as ‘excellent’.
He told the PM: ‘After your excellent speech in Florence I am much more optimistic.
‘Of course, still we have to do something maybe more substantive.’
In response, Mrs May said the two leaders agreed that ‘things have moved on’ in the process.
The PM stressed the need for a ‘good economic and security partnership’ between the UK and EU after withdrawal.
She said: ‘I set out in my speech last week in Florence the hope for working together to that deep and special partnership I think we want to create with the European Union once we leave the European Union.
‘And the commitment we have to looking for a really good economic partnership.
‘I think that by being creative in the ways that we approach these issues we can find solutions that work both for the remaining 27 but also for the UK and maintain that co-operation and partnership between the UK and the EU.’
In her Florence speech, the Premier (pictured inside No 10 with Mr Tusk today) spelt out her hopes for a two year transition deal and signalled Britain would pay up to £40billion to settle the divorce
Mr Tusk was briefed on the latest talks by Michel Barnier (pictured right today) before travelling to London
In a fiery opening to the latest round of talks, the EU threatened to thwart the arrangement unless Britain first agrees to pay a huge ‘divorce’ bill and accept Brussels’ rules during this time.
Warning that Brussels could still veto a deal after the financial settlement is agreed, Mr Barnier used the opening of the latest talks to warn: ‘The EU has to decide on whether to have a transitional period and whether it is in its interest.
‘We are not going to mix up discussions on debts and discussion on the past commitments. We are not going to mix up those subjects, which are part of an orderly withdrawal, on a discussion of our future relationship.’
He said during any transition the UK ‘would have to continue with things such as the budget, supervision, judicial supervision and controls of EU rules and regulations’.
Mrs May’s desire for an ‘implementation’ period has provoked rows between Cabinet ministers and prompted concern from Brexiteers that it will effectively mean EU free movement into the UK continues until at least 2021.
The deep divide between the EU and Britain over how to agree the ‘divorce’ bill, seen as the biggest threat to negotiations’ success, was revealed as the fourth round of Brexit talks got under way in Brussels yesterday.
Brexit Secretary David Davis rejected Mr Barnier’s arguments and said the UK would only discuss paying money in the context of a future deal with the EU.
In a direct warning to Brussels amid fears the EU is stalling talks, Mr Davis also warned Mr Barnier there were ‘no excuses for standing in the way of progress’.
‘The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership,’ he said.
‘But it’s obvious that reaching a conclusion on this issue can only be done in the context of and in accordance with our new deep and special partnership with the EU.’
European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis arrive to brief the media
Mr Barnier (right) hinted that a breakthrough could be reached this week. He is pictured with Brexit Secretary David Davis
Reiterating Mrs May’s position during her speech in Florence last Friday, Mr Davis said EU countries should not ‘worry that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget’.
He also praised the PM’s proposals and said the UK ‘is absolutely committed to work through the detail’.
Brussels has demanded that the UK pay a ‘divorce’ settlement of up to £90billion.
Mrs May confirmed last week that she is willing to continue the UK’s payments into the EU’s budget for two years after Brexit – estimated to come to about £17.5 billion.
Mr Barnier hinted that a breakthrough could be reached this week, saying the resumed talks could unlock ‘a moment of clarity’ over the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, the Northern Ireland border and the ‘divorce’ bill.
EU leaders will first have to decide whether the UK has made ‘sufficient progress’ on these issues before agreeing to launch talks on a trade deal.
The Prime Minister is expected to be asked for more detail about Brexit by the bloc’s other 27 leaders at a dinner in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Thursday
in her Florence speech (pictured) Mrs May announced plans for Britain to maintain its relationship with the EU for an ‘implementation’ period lasting several years after Brexit