Theresa May to tell the EU: ‘The ball’s in your court’

Theresa May will tell the European Union “the ball is in your court” as she urges EU negotiators to show more “flexibility” in finding a deal that will be beneficial to both sides.

In a statement to the House of Commons when it returns from the conference season recess, the Prime Minister will repeat the central message of her Florence speech – that the UK seeks a “deep and special partnership” with the EU.

But she will tell European leaders: “Achieving that partnership will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU.

“And as we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic we will receive a positive response.

“Because what we are seeking is not just the best possible deal for us – but also the best possible deal for our European friends too.”

© getty images

So far, the talks have stalled over the size of the UK’s “divorce settlement”, as well as the border situation in Ireland and the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and vice-versa.

This week the EU will decide whether sufficient progress has been made to allow the talks to progress on to the terms of any future trading arrangement.

EU ambassadors from Paris and Berlin are understood to have told the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier that sufficient progress on the so-called divorce settlement has not yet been made, and have rejected suggestions the talks could move on to the terms of a “transitional arrangement” between the EU and the UK for two years after the UK leaves the bloc in March 2019.

The Prime Minister’s words reflect a continuation of the conciliatory approach set out in her Florence speech, itself a significant reversal from the more aggressive stance taken both by her and the UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis, before the Conservatives lost their majority in the June election.

© getty

Ms May’s Florence speech was well received in Brussels but Conservative party infighting in the days after the Prime Minister’s disastrous conference speech has weakened her position, with EU counterparts aware her premiership could come to an end at any moment.

Mr Barnier has previously called the UK’s approach “nostalgic”, and has indicated the UK does not know what it wants from Brexit.

Both he and Angela Merkel have made clear that the EU’s “four freedoms” are indivisible, meaning that European nations cannot enjoy tariff-free access to the single market without accepting free movement of people.

No leading European figures have indicated any flexibility will be possible in this regard.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said it will take miracles for enough progress to have been made by the meeting of leaders over 19-20 October, while the European Parliament  overwhelmingly passed a non-binding motion declaring that more needed to be done.

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