Diplomat Davis

Desperate for a deal in December, David Davis is turning to diplomacy.

The Brexit secretary plans a series of meetings with senior officials from Germany and elsewhere in a new diplomatic push to win over European leaders and unblock exit talks, Bloomberg’s Tim Ross reports. There’s concern on the U.K. side that some member states don’t fully appreciate the scale of Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts so far, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Talks are stuck on the issue of the divorce bill. The EU wants about 60 billion euros (£53 billion; $70 billion); May has made clear so far that she’s prepared to pay about a third of that and is going through other claims “line by line.” 

The EU wants more movement from the U.K. before it will agree to start talking about the crucial trade and transition arrangements that will be needed in just 17 months. May has already taken a politically risky leap – plenty of voters oppose paying a big bill – and the U.K. side thinks it’s time for Europe to reciprocate.

But while Davis is plotting more diplomacy, the U.K. team has been rebuffing offers from the EU to schedule another round of negotiations. It has failed to respond to an offer of at least two new rounds of talks before December and no date has been set for more talks, Tim and Ian Wishart reported on Friday.

British officials regard France and Germany as the key member states to convince. German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered May some warm words of encouragement in Brussels earlier this month, while French President Emmanuel Macron was among the most hostile – making the clearest noises about the size of the bill. The EU27 has remained united in its stance that the divorce issues need to be hashed out before talks can move on to the future relationship.

Last week, Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson traveled to Paris to meet French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Johnson also met Augusto Santos Silva, Portugal’s foreign minister, on Oct. 27 and appealed for help to break the deadlock in Brexit talks. Plans are being made for similar outreach to Germany as Merkel works to form a new coalition government.

U.K. officials think Davis’s counterpart, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, understands how much ground the talks have covered since they began in June. Despite this, France and Germany lag in appreciating the progress, according to the person.

If talks don’t move on in December then the two sides will have less than a year to hash out a deal before Britain crashes out of the EU structures it’s been part of for decades. That would leave businesses in a legal limbo and facing obstacles to trade with the U.K.’s biggest partner. The European Parliament gets a vote on the agreement, and that ratification process will eat into the time available for talks.

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On the Markets | The pound fell 2 percent in October on concerns about the lack of progress in Brexit talks and strategists reckon even a Bank of England rate hike this week won’t be enough to boost sterling, Bloomberg’s Charlotte Ryan reports.


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