Spotlight: Second round of Brexit talks begins as discrepancy and uncertainty clouding negotiations

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-17 17:31:09|Editor: Zhang Dongmiao
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BRUSSELS, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Britain and the European Union (EU) launch a new round of Brexit negotiations here on Monday as conflicting views on "divorce" terms cast shadow on the resumption of talks and a feasible deal seems rather difficult to reach for now.

About a month after their first meeting, Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier meet for four days of talks to settle exit terms, intending to push forward with a detailed plan that could minimize economic and social damage to both Britain and the EU after Brexit.

"We made a good start last month, and this week we'll be getting into the real substance," Davis was quoted by Reuters as saying ahead of the meeting. How much substantial progress could be made during the talks remains to be seen.


Negotiators will focus their talks on key issues, with Britain's exit bill as the core. The EU has demanded Britain to pay some 60 billion euros (70 billion U.S. dollars) as exit fee.

Negotiation on the exit bill might be tough as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made the remark last week that the EU could "go whistle" over its "extortionate" bill demand, which means the EU has little chance of getting it.

Barnier, however, responded that he was not hearing any whistling, just the "clock ticking". Earlier in March, British Prime Minister Theresa May had set a two-year timetable for leaving the EU.

Johnson's remark also draw criticism from his homeland, as opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn was quoted by Sky News as saying that it's "ridiculous" for the minister to use such "silly", "arrogant" language.

Conservative Philip Hollobone echoed with Johnson, saying that since Britain joined the EU in 1973 until the date it leaves, the country will have given the EU and its predecessors, in today's money in real terms, a total of 209 billion pounds (270 billion U.S. dollars).


Just two days before the start of the new round of talks, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, in his biggest intervention yet against Brexit, that Britain could remain in the EU despite its Brexit referendum vote.

According to media reports, Blair said EU leaders would be willing to change their rules on immigration and free movement to enable Britain to stay in the 28-nation bloc. He declined to identify the sources who had indicated which leaders he was referring to.

Blair noted that Brexit is damaging Britain economically and politically with "fresh evidence" came to light every day.

More than a year after the Brexit referendum, some still argue that it would be in Britain's interests to remain in the EU, and retain the benefits of free movement of people, capital, goods and services. British industry of medicine and aviation have recently voiced their concerns.

Even though May had insisted that the Brexit process can't be reversed, her government will not be able to pursue the firm Brexit line she favored, following an undesired result of the June snap election, in which her party lost majority in the House of Commons.


As doubt for and objection to Brexit continue, progress favorable to those in support of the breaking away has been made, creating a silver lining for the closely watched second round of talks.

On Thursday, the British government introduced a draft law that would formally end Britain's EU membership, as preparation for eventually divorcing the bloc and gaining back legislation power of parliaments.

The British side had urged over the past months an immediate start of trade talks, but agreed last month that key issues of Brexit be dealt with first. The EU also accepted that details on the Brexit terms will still be open when trade talks start.

The negotiation is expected to be complicated, as May's minority government will face challenges at every step in the process. The prime minister may have to seek consensus from other parties in parliament and to offer concessions on relative policies.

Asides from the exit bill, the four-day negotiation will focus on citizens' rights and the border in Northern Ireland, among other issues.