Hunt downplays signs of Brexit progress as Poland offers support
Brexit Hunt downplays signs of Brexit progress as Poland offers support
Foreign secretary says Michel Barnierâs remarks do not show change to EU stance on UK plan
Polandâs nationalist government is seeking to persuade the EU to be more open to the UKâs Brexit plans as Jeremy Hunt said he had so far seen scant evidence of any hopeful movement from Brussels on the Chequers proposals.
The British foreign secretary, meeting his EU counterparts in Vienna, downplayed any suggestion that recent comments from the EUâs chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, offered any indication of a softening of the blocâs resistance to the UKâs proposals.
The value of the pound rose on Thursday after Barnier repeated his oft-stated hopes of a deal with the UK, interpreted by some as a sign that Brussels was responding to British lobbying in favour of a more generous deal on future trade.Calm down. Barnier's words were not a green light for Brexit deal Read more
Hunt, however, offered a sceptical note on Thursday. âItâs going to be a very long, hard road ahead. Obviously, when there do appear to be signs of a change then that is encouraging, but I donât think you can read too much into these,â he said.
Austriaâs foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, also dismissed the suggestion that the EU was ready to rethink its current position, which rules out key tenets of the Chequers proposals, including frictionless trade for goods across the Channel.
âI think we still have to stick to the directives which were drafted in March 2017, namely the negotiating is all done by Michel Barnier,â she said. âSo when you speak of a more generous offer, it can only be within the [room for manoeuvre] of Commissioner Barnier and his counterpart, the British government.â
The Polish foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, offered the British foreign secretary some hope, however, telling reporters that he would try to persuade his fellow ministers to shift their position, following an intense period of lobbying by British ministers in EU capitals in favour of the white paper on the future trading relationship.
Asked whether a more generous deal could be offered by the EU, Czaputowicz, whose party has been in a long-running row with the European commission over the countryâs judicial changes and is facing unprecedented disciplinary action, to ld reporters: âI think that we have to discuss that issue. We are very pleased, Poland, that the white paper was presented. It is a good base for discussion.
âPoland is in favour of maintaining relations with UK after Brexit, so we will argue for [a] good deal for both sides. I think it is possible. But definitely we will encourage, I will encourage my partners within the EU, to be more open to arguments of the UK.â
The struggle to get other member states onboard was nevertheless made clear by comments from other EU ministers in Vienna and Berlin, where Barnier was in talks with the German government.
Annika SÃ¶der, the Swedish foreign secretary, suggested her central hope was that opinion on Brexit was changing in the UK in favour of a second referendum.
âYou know that we wanted to keep you and we look at the polls and we see that there may be some hesitation,â she said.
âWe hope that we can find a way forward to have a soft Brexit, be cause a hard Brexit wouldnât serve anyone, but still â" and this may be not very polite â" we hope that there can be a solution where the UK will still be in the European Union.
âNegotiations are important and Barnier and his team are working hard to find a good solution, so we will not give up on a soft Brexit, even if that tiny hope is still there.â
The German economic affairs minister, Peter Altmaier, issued a statement following his meeting with Barnier reiterating Germanyâs support for the EU negotiator and the guidelines offering the UK a free-trade deal, which Downing Street has already dismissed as lacking the necessary ambition to maintain economic prosperity on both sides of the Channel.
- European Union
- Jeremy Hunt
- Foreign policy
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