The EU is likely to refuse to start trade talks with Britain at a summit of leaders in Brussels this December, the leader of the largest political party in the European Parliament has warned.
Manfred Weber said he would meet Theresa May in London tomorrow and tell her that Britain must put concrete proposals on the table to bridge the impasse between Brussels and London negotiations.
The prime minister will travel to Brussels on Nov. 24 to speak to leading MEPs in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
"Theresa May has asked for talks. She knows the negotiations are in a decisive phase,” said Mr Weber, who leads the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).
“In the coming weeks we will see whether a constructive outcome is possible or whether the uncertainty will continue to grow.”
The EU is refusing to talk trade or a transition deal until it judges that “sufficient progress” has been made on the issues of the Brexit bill, Ireland and citizens’ rights.
In October, EU leaders said Britain had not done enough on the three issues to begin the second phase of negotiations.
They set a new deadline of the 14-15 December European Council to clear the sufficient progress hurdle but, after a sixth round of talks in Brussels last week, there has been no sign of a breakthrough. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, last week set Britain a two week deadline to kickstart the discussions.
Mr Weber, a German MEP, told reporters at a Strasbourg press conference: “In December it doesn’t look like we will be entering into the second phase.”
“But the clock is ticking. In spring 2019 Britain will leave. We need to warn the British government and call on them to put proposals on the table,” added the leader of the EPP, whose members include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.
The financial settlement remains the most divisive issue in the Brexit negotiations although there are major bones of contention on the other files as well.
Mrs May’s Florence speech promise to meet EU budget costs of €20 billion to 2020 is not enough for EU negotiators, who want more detail on Britain’s financial commitments to the EU. Britain is resisting that call.
If the December deadline is missed, the next European Council will be held in March. That will be a year after Mrs May triggered the two year negotiation period taking Britain out of the EU and a year before Brexit Day on 29 March 2019.
In an effort to win support in Brussels, Mrs May will on Nov. 24 address European Parliament leaders in a behind-closed doors meeting of the secretive “Conference of Presidents”.
She will not address a plenary session of the full European Parliament, which will vote on the final Brexit deal, as other British prime ministers have done in the past.
Guy Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit coordinator, today demanded that EU citizens living in Britain should only need to make a declaration of their residency rather than apply for settled status after Brexit.
In a letter to David Davis, the British Brexit Secretary, Mr Verhofstadt said the burden of proof would lie with the Home Office and not on the citizens.
“Under your proposals EU citizens will definitely notice a deterioration of their status as a result of Brexit." The aim, he said, is that EU citizens "should notice no difference."
Mr Verhoftsadt said he could not accept criminal checks for EU citizens being made more stringent than allowed under EU law after Brexit.