Impatient Brussels hosts Brexit 'talks about talks'

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet the leader of a small Northern Irish Protestant party on Tuesday to save her premiership and avoid a second election that would thrust Brexit negotiations into turmoil.

May has promised to start the formal Brexit talks next week but her authority has collapsed since the election result and opponents took her woes as a chance to push back against her Brexit strategy.

Meanwhile, the chief European Union negotiator has told the Financial Times that the clock is ticking on Brexit talks, and that Britain should be wary of further delays.

"Discussions are going well with the government", Foster said on Twitter.

During the campaign, May cast herself as the only leader competent enough to navigate the tortuous Brexit negotiations that will shape the future of the United Kingdom and its $US2.5 trillion ($A3.3 trillion) economy.

It came as her most senior minister Damian Green confirmed that the Queen's Speech, due to set out the Government's programme on June 19, could be delayed as the Tories seek an agreement with the DUP.

May's weakness means she must now listen to all shades of opinion on Brexit as she goes into Britain's most complex negotiations since World War Two.

The DUP leader said: "There's been a lot of commentary around the issues that we are talking about and it won't surprise anyone that we are talking about matters that pertain, of course, to the nation generally".

May has shown little public contrition for the electoral gamble that backfired spectacularly, but was forced to accept the resignations of her two top aides - reportedly a requirement by cabinet colleagues for allowing her to stay in office. Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson asked for a "categoric assurance" from Mrs May that the gay community's rights would not be derailed by a deal with the socially conservative party.

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EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met senior British Brexit official Oliver Robbins in Brussels to discuss arrangements such as dates and the sequencing of talks once they do actually get started.

"The Tory civil war on the European Union which has ripped it apart since the Maastricht rebellions of the early 1990s, and which the referendum was supposed to solve, is now raging again", said Chris Grey, an academic who specializes in Brexit at Royal Holloway in London.

Foster's rivals in Northern Ireland, such as Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, have objected.

"It does cause serious strain in relation to the potential of getting an executive up and running, if we have that type of relationship".

New Environment Secretary Micheal Gove, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are present at the meeting too.

Over the weekend, Mrs May was warned by former Chancellor George Osborne she was a "dead woman walking".

The uncertainty has hit business confidence, according to a survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

"The intent is to ensure that we have the stability of Government in the national interest".

"That reputation in 12 months has been destroyed, truly destroyed. That has really profound implications for multinational businesses that have made a long-term bet on London being the sensible place to base themselves".

Other reports by VgToday

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