Britain's Brexit Minister Says PM May Not a 'Dead Woman Walking'

Xavier Trudeau
Juin 21, 2017

He's not alone among Europeans in being impatient. "The clock is ticking towards Brexit".

Demanding a swift start to Brexit negotiations under Article 50 of the European Union treaties, the former Belgian prime minister compared Britain's position to the heroine of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, who found herself in a room with many doors and no idea what lay behind them.

Mr Barnier has said he wants to wrap up a Brexit deal by October 2018 so it has time to get through national parliaments and the European Parliament in time for Britain's departure from the bloc at the end of March 2019.

He said: "Of those, the one (EU citizens) that is hyper-sensitive on time because it relates to people's anxiety, you've got people worrying in Britain that they can't stay here".

In Brussels on Monday Barnier met Olly Robbins, a senior official in Davis's ministry, and Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow to discuss arrangements for the talks following the election shock.

Negotiating Britain's departure was always going to be complicated, but last week's indecisive British election has made it more so.

May called for a snap election in April to gain a bigger majority than the seats her Conservative party had at the time. Her Cabinet - as is her parliamentary party - is sharply split between hard and soft Brexiters.

Like many on the continent, he has long criticised Britain's entitlement, negotiated by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, to get about half its European Union budget contributions back as a rebate.

Prime Minister May also faces a House of Commons where there's no majority for a hard Brexit and a House of Lords that was spoiling for a fight with her own immigration-curtailing hard Brexit vision even before the election.

May's catastrophic showing in Thursday's election has caused consternation in the European Union, which is keen to push through the disruptive Brexit process as soon as possible.

"It's unclear if the United Kingdom government will stick to the line that they had announced in the letter of the 29th of March or if they will change it... taking into account the outcome of the election".

"When will be the point from moving to talking about talks, to more detailed talks, I can not say".

Hague, however, acknowledges building a Brexit consensus will be hard.

In Strasbourg where members of the European Parliament are holding the monthly plenary, MEPs seem broadly frustrated and impatient by Britain's domestic politics and the delay they are causing.

"We haven't negotiated, we haven't progressed". "And I confirmed to President Macron that the timetable for the Brexit negotiation remains on course and will begin next week", she added. He said there is a "clear consensus" for leaving the single market and ending free movement - two pledges outlined in the party's manifesto.

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