Brussels – British Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged on Monday that her government is preparing for the possibility that talks with the European Union on the terms of Britain’s departure from the bloc might fail.
May said it was her government’s responsibility to “prepare for every eventuality,” when she addressed the British parliament for the first time since a keynote speech on Brexit in Florence last month.
While May reiterated her desire to reach an agreement with the EU in talks that have made little progress since they began in July, she failed to provide any more detail on how she plans to break the deadlock.
The EU says there is currently a lack of progress on the three key issues necessary to be solved before talks can proceed to trade: the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and the Irish border.
May reiterated her desire for “a deep and special partnership” with the bloc, while rejecting existing agreements that the EU already has with countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Canada as a template for Britain.
She insisted the ball was in the EU’s court, a notion that had earlier been rejected by the European Commission, which said that the ball was entirely in Britain’s court.
Little hope of any progress
The contradictory rhetoric on both sides leaves little hope that any progress will be made at the fifth round of Brexit talks that got underway in Brussels.
EU member states are to decide whether to move on to the next phase of talks at their October 19-20 summit, but officials from the European Commissian indicated last week that unless “a miracle” was to happen, British demands to discuss trade could not be met.
May acknowledged that jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice is likely to continue should there be a transition period after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
Confusion in the heart of the British government
Such a move is highly unpopular among British deputies who want a clear end to ECJ jurisdiction.
The leader of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, said there was confusion at the heart of the British government.
“We have a cabinet at each other’s throat,” Corbyn told May in reference to media reports that May remained weakened and in charge of a split cabinet.
“One half wants the foreign secretary sacked, the other wants the chancellor sacked,” Corbyn said about calls on May to sack either Boris Johnson or Philip Hammond, who hold different views on how Brexit should be implemented.
Despite being pressed several times to clarify media reports that her government had sought legal advice on whether Brexit could be reversed, May refused to answer and said her government was set on “delivering” what the British public had voted for.