Van Rompuy: "Zero" chance of Britain being ready for Brexit trade talks

PUBLISHED: 09:52 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:28 07 September 2017

Former European Council president Herman Van Rompuy


Britain's chances of being ready to begin EU trade negotiations by the next round of trade talks in October are "in the neighbourhood of zero", former European Council president Herman van Rompuy warned today.

The stark warning comes days after David Davies admitted Brexit negotiations were proving "tough and at times confrontational" as he told MPs there was a yawning gap in how the two sides saw the UK's divorce bill.

The EU has made clear that talks on any future deal would begin only once enough progress has been made on the UK's initial divorce bill and on Tuesday the Brexit Secretary said there were "significant differences" and "very different legal stances" over how much was owed.

And today Mr van Rompuy derided the chances of the next round of negotiations going ahead on schedule.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “If there is no breakthrough, for instance in the financial settlement... if you don’t have that type of agreement I don’t see how you can call it sufficient progress."

Mr van Rompuy dismissed the UK’s draft immigration policy, leaked earlier this week, which suggested an immediate end to freedom of movement after Brexit.

“If you are not accepting one of the four freedoms, freedom of movement, then you have a problem,” he said.

“Good luck negotiating a smooth and sufficient transient. For me it’s hampering a stable transition period.”

Mr Davis boasted earlier this week that the UK side had surprised EU negotiators by going through their financial demands "line by line", saying that, while the UK would honour its financial commitments to the EU, the latter was trying to use the increasingly tight timetable for concluding talks to bounce Britain into a deal.

Any hold-up over how much the UK must pay to leave will increase the chances of it crashing out of the Union without any deal on future trade arrangements.

The next round of talks are due to begin on September 18, with phase one due to conclude on October 9 and EU leaders meeting 10 days later to decide if enough progress has been made for trade talks to begin.

First Secretary of State and de facto Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, appearing on the same programme, dismissed Mr van Rompuy’s estimates as “too pessimistic”.

He said: “I think, clearly, these are complicated negotiations but there are several rounds to go.

“Indeed, we have said we want to increase the pace of them. We want them to go on. There have been some significant agreements made already so the negotiations will be tough but we’ll see what happens between now and October.”

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that papers it had seen suggested the EU wants Northern Ireland to have a different Brexit deal to the rest of the UK.

It claimed the document said the UK should take responsibility for finding a "unique solution" so people can work, go to school or get medical treatment either side of the Irish border.

Details will be published by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier later.

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest Articles


Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.


Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy