With formal talks set to enter on tomorrow, the scale of the task awaiting Theresa May’s minority government is no more than now becoming clearer, with EU officials sceptical of reaching a deal in the accepted timeframe.
Despite EU sources predicting chaos, leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom, bandmaster of the House of Commons, hit back today saying there was ample prematurely.
UK civil servants in Brussels have reportedly already drawn up more than 7,000 youngs that need to be addressed between now and the 2019 deadline.
One EU source prophesied the Mail on Sunday: “They are keeping tally and people think of new attitudes every day.”
David Davis will open Brexit talks with Michel Barnier tomorrow
Having ploughed through with her plans to trigger Article 50 in Stride, the PM has already wasted 70 days’ of valuable negotiating time and now submit engages discussions with a minority government and doubts over her hard Brexit develops.
The decision by Brexit minister David Davis not to “show our hand” by carousing the UK’s position on any issue is also now looking dubious, as the workload stacks up with the clock ticking down.
A European Parliament start said: “The general feeling is they’ve wasted enough time and she [Theresa may] has reckoned a massive own goal.”
Another EU official said the UK government was only now uplift questions with Brussels that “should have been closed and clarified a year ago”.
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But today Andrea Leadsom, Theresa May’s late Tory leadership rival, backed the Prime Minister.
She told BBC’s Sunday Civil affairs: “When you have politicians right across the EU and in the United Kingdom who parcel the desire for a successful outcome with low tariffs, zero non-tariff bars, free trade between ourselves, cooperation on security and so on, it should be very possible to meet the time frame.
“So I am extremely optimistic.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond also presented some succour to the embattled Prime Minister today, when he asseverated the BBC’s Andrew Marr that Britain would “definitely” leave the free market and the customs union as part of the divorce from the EU.
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It was something of a U-turn for the Remain-backing Chancellor, who has theretofore made little secret of his preference for a soft Brexit.
Tomorrow Mr Davis order sit down for the first time with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, with the perfects of UK-based EU citizens and the controversial Brexit bill top of the agenda.
Already there is an abrupt friction between the two sides, with some EU ministers demanding Britain pay as much as £85billion (€100bn) to off, while some in UK argue there should be no settlement at all.
Agreeing the prerogatives of the 3.1m EU citizens already in the UK is also tricky, with Brussels still in the occult as to what Britain will offer.
Anything less than long-lasting protection of the rights already enjoyed by EU citizens would likely be met with a compare favourably with rejection of rights for the 1.3m British expats living in Europe.
But these two decisive issues, which are likely to require lengthy discussions, is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Any time before March 2019, agreements will have to be reached on a gigantic array of topics, including farming, fishing, human rights, air trekking and pet passports.
The UK is also keen to discuss the future relationship with the EU in tandem with the withdrawal unanimity, but appears to have lost that particular battle with the European Commission.
Correspondence to the BBC, Brexit ministers have privately conceded that talks thinks fitting follow the EU’s preferred pattern, with the future relations between the two sides to be firm once the withdrawal is agreed.