The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave Britain a two-week deadline yesterday to provide “vital” clarification on the financial commitments it is willing to honour as part of its Brexit divorce settlement.
During a press conference following discussions with UK Brexit Secretary David Davis, Barnier took a hard line, stressing that there would be no talks on post-EU trade before agreement on the final settlement—expected to be over £50 billion.
With further substantive talks not scheduled until December, the European powers clearly smell blood in the water. They calculate that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May is too weak to make good on its threats to walk away from the EU with “no deal rather than a bad deal.”
EU officials let it be known to the Times of London that they are making contingency plans based on May or even her entire government not surviving beyond the end of this year.
May’s premiership has become a living nightmare for her. She heads a minority government after a narrow general election victory in June—a snap poll that she called in the aim of providing a larger majority to push Brexit through. Instead, not only did popular anti-austerity sentiment contribute to a large vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but the fissures within ruling circles over Brexit were widened.
Now, May is at the epicentre of a political storm. Within days, she has lost two of her cabinet to scandals. Sir Michael Fallon fell as Defence Secretary after being accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour.