It has only been a few hours since the Tories won the Copeland by-election, where it was affirmed that this seat gain would furthermore strengthen Theresa May’s grip on British politics. Unfortunately, this grip hasn’t extended to conducting free talks with the EU on Brexit, as an increasing number of member states have taken a hard line on the process.
The British government believes that there should be parallel talks on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal and the future trading relationship. The timeline of completing a free trade agreement is imperative as the government has only two years to complete negotiations under the Lisbon treaty.
However, political parties in the Czech parliament have joined senior figures in Rome and Berlin in backing the European Commission’s stance on that there should be no such talks until Britain has agreed to “pay its bills,” and has come to an agreement on the rights of EU nationals.
Britain’s bill is looking to come in around €60bn, however this figure might change, depending on when exactly the UK will leave the EU.
In the statement, the Czech parties said: “Although an agreement on a future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU is, from a long-term perspective, a key part of the process, it should be preceded by an agreement on the basic outline of the conditions for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which will serve as the framework for negotiations on future relations.”
In a Financial Times interview published on Friday, Italy’s minister of European Affairs said that it was important for talks to be staggered. “Parallel negotiations may be interesting for London, but I think they are a bad idea, also for the UK. This is a damage limitation process so it requires even more good faith than usual,” he said.
A German official who has not been named told the newspaper: “We agree with the commission” in reference to Article 50.
Additionally, The Czech parties also raised concerns for the future of their citizens and the loss of British input in to the EU’s budget, saying: “We agree that the emphasis should be on preserving the current level of acquired rights of Czech citizens, not only for those that already reside in the United Kingdom, but also for students and academic workers who contribute to the growth of competitiveness across the entire union.
“Our citizens currently living in the UK have made life choices based on legitimate expectations and made use of the rights granted to them by their citizenship and the membership of the Czech Republic in the EU.
“This should be reflected in the upcoming negotiations. Furthermore, we will endeavour to reach a just financial settlement between the European Union and the United Kingdom with consideration to the fact that the United Kingdom does not want to fully participate in the EU budget in the future.”
President of the European Commission, Jean Claude-Junker has insisted that the UK must pay its debt before any talks on the withdrawal of the UK can begin. On Tuesday, Junker said that the cost of Brexit would be “very hefty.”