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LONDON – The UK government will later this month reveal two key aspects of its Brexit plan in an effort to dispel the feeling in Brussels that Britain is unprepared for negotiations, according to reports.
Officials close to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government have told Politico that two positioning papers will be published in August which will reveal the Cabinet’s desire for a smooth and gradual departure from the European Union aided through transitional arrangements.
The first paper will outline the government’s desire for a transitional customs arrangement while the second is set to present a possible solution to the Northern Ireland border dilemma, sources close to the papers have told Politico. The papers, scheduled to be published in the week beginning August 14, will be first of dozens to be made public in the comings months.
The UK government is keen to counter the opinion held by figures in Brussels that Britain is neither prepared nor equipped to enter such complex negotiations. May triggered Article 50 in March but since then her government has failed to articulate specific goals it wants to achieve in divorce talks with the EU. Steve Bullock, a former UK representative to the EU, told BI last month that EU figures were “baffled” by how unprepared Britain was for talks.
“If someone had asked me in August ‘okay what would be the absolute worst way to approach this?’ I don’t think I could have done it as badly as government ministers are right now,” former negotiator Bullock said.
“There is a cranking up of the machine into another gear. There is an awareness that we have to get to the European Council having shown seriousness,” an official told Politico.
The papers will reportedly indicate a preference for a gradual departure based on Britain’s current trading relations with the EU continuing beyond March 2019 as part of a transitional arrangement. This is the sort of Brexit that has been pushed by Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Cabinet’s more moderate voices, while staunch Brexiteers like Trade Secretary Liam Fox lean towards a harder version of Brexit with less emphasis on a transitional period.
While May’s government may be set to disclose key aspects of its Brexit plan, it is reportedly not as keen to reach an agreement on how much money it must pay to the EU upon leaving, Politico adds. This will likely annoy EU negotiators who have been clear that Britain’s financial obligations must be settled in the first stage of talks.