"Miracles" required to progress Brexit talks on schedule

CommentSeptember 28 2017 12:01am The Times Far from the Brexit squabbling EU leaders lay out vision for the future Simon Nixon

Also speaking at the summit in Talinn, Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar gave some succour to the PM when he said there was a "better vibe and a better mood" coming from the talks, but warned that they were "not at the point where we can get onto the future relationship".

Despite warning it could take "several months" for the key divorce issues to be decided, Mr Barnier hailed a "new dynamic" to negotiations following Mrs May's speech.

"I'm saying that there will be no sufficient progress from now until October unless miracles would happen", he was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

Prime Minister Theresa May had been hoping to use an informal European Union meeting in the Estonian capital Tallinn to harness what she describes as renewed goodwill over Brexit to push the talks beyond the terms of the divorce, now just 18 months away.

The EU has repeatedly insisted that talks on future trade ties can not begin until "sufficient progress" has been made on the divorce arrangements - chiefly Britain's financial obligations, the Irish border, and citizens' rights.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that it could still be months before both sides can actually proceed to discuss trade.

May did not, however, say whether she thought there was enough momentum to move talks on to trade relations.

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The German chancellor welcomed the vision that the youthful new French leader set out for leaders over dinner on Thursday, two days after a barnstorming speech at the Sorbonne in which he called for much deeper and faster integration of the bloc after Britain leaves, ranging from joint defence to a shared euro zone budget.

European Union leaders insist the talks must make "sufficient progress" on Britain's financial settlement, the rights of citizens hit by Brexit and the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border before they can be broadened to include future relations and trade between Britain and the EU. "We need to find a good solution, good for all".

But she also noted differences and a need to bring other governments - and other Germans - on board with the plans.

Standing beside French President Emmanuel Macron and Estonia's Juri Ratas, she chatted to some of the 800 troops Britain has deployed at a military base in Tapa, northern Estonia, as part of Nato's moves to defend against a newly assertive Russian Federation on the EU's border.

She will visit 800 British soldiers who have been based in Tapa since April as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation battlegroup with French and Estonian troops while in Estonia.

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