European Council President Donald Tusk says Brexit talks haven’t yet made sufficient progress to begin negotiating a new relationship between Britain and the European Union.
After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Tusk said he believed Britain had finally abandoned an unrealistic “having a cake and eating it” approach to Brexit.
Britain triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit in March, but since then talks have made little progress. Negotiators are meeting in Brussels this week for a fourth round of discussions, as EU officials warn Britain that time is running out.
Britain wants to start discussing future trade and security relations with the bloc, but EU officials say that can’t happen until there has been “sufficient progress” on the terms of the divorce.
In a bid to break the logjam, May made a conciliatory speech in Florence, Italy, last week, saying the UK would be willing to pay into EU coffers during a two-year transition phase after it formally leaves the bloc in March 2019.
“I feel cautiously optimistic about the constructive and more realistic tone in the prime minister’s speech in Florence and of our discussion today,” Tusk said after meeting May at 10 Downing St.
“There is no sufficient progress yet, but we will work on it.”
Other EU officials also gave a cautious welcome to May’s speech, but say more detail is needed.
Chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Monday he was “keen and eager” to understand how May’s words would be turned into a negotiating strategy.
The EU says it won’t discuss future relationships until it has guarantees on Britain’s outstanding financial commitments, the rights of more than 4 million EU and British citizens affected by Brexit and the status of the Irish border.